On Wednesday Aberdeen embarks on a six-game roadtrip against the Vermont Lake Monsters and the Lowell Spinners. Aberdeen is coming off a chaotic three-game sweep of the Auburn Doubledays at Ripken Stadium that featured two walk-off hits.
The first game of the series was the site of centerfielder Trent Mummey’s walk-off grand slam to lift Aberdeen to a 7-3 victory. Game two had Bruno Sanchez’s strongest pitching performance of the year where the righthander pitched six shutout innings of one-hit baseball in an 8-2 IronBirds victory. And finally, first baseman Michael Flacco capped off the sweep with a walk-off double to score third baseman Adam Gaylord on Tuesday night in an 8-7 victory for Aberdeen to push the IronBirds record to 12-13. The sweep was the first of the year for the IronBirds and one of the most memorable for many of the players.
“That was probably the most exciting series I’ve ever been a part of, especially because we came out on top obviously makes it the best,” Flacco said. “It was just awesome.”
Gaylord had been part of exciting games, but “not with all the momentum swings there and the walk-off wins. It’s always great to get those, especially sweeping them. I think we’re going to take these three wins especially the momentum from tonight and take it on the road and hopefully do well there too,” he said.
Manager Gary Kendall commented on Tuesday night’s game, “I’ve been involved in games where we come back and score a lot of runs, but not in the bottom of the eighth and not the way we’ve done it with the circumstances. The rain, the wet balls, the balls going all around, and then to give up the two in the top of the ninth and then to come back was really nice to see.”
Lefthander Justin Anderson, who pitched 4.1 innings in Tuesday’s game and watched the finish from the clubhouse said, “That was really cool to pull out six runs in the eighth and then come back after they hit us back down. That was a fun game to watch on TV, but I wish I could have been out there watching it though.”
Aberdeen’s biggest challenge will be taking this momentum into the series with Vermont. Vermont currently has the best record in the New York-Penn League at 18-7 behind a strong pitching staff with a 2.82 team ERA, well ahead of Williamsport’s 3.34 ERA, which is second in the league. The Lake Monsters pitching staff has only give up 88 runs this year and has the lowest WHIP in the league at 1.19.
Vermont has four pitchers with ERAs at 3.00 or under, led by Matt Swynenberg and Taylor Jordan who each have ERAs of 2.63. The IronBirds are expecting to see Jordan in the third game of the series.
“We’re going to have to start playing better on the road,” Kendall said. “We’ve got an over .500 record at home, but on the road I think we’re 3-8. It’s pitiful. We’ve got to take the same approach. We’ve got to prepare ourselves on the road, get our rest. Vermont’s in first place so I’m sure they’re not there by accident. I’m sure they’re a good ballclub. We’ve got to keep playing hard.”
Vermont’s offense is 10th in the 14-team league in batting with a .243 average, and the team’s on-base percentage of .343 (third in the league) is higher than its slugging percentage of .342 (11th), showing a dedication of the Vermont hitters to work the count and draw walks.
Vermont’s squad features many high draft picks from the 2010 MLB Draft of the Washington Nationals. The team features 16 players selected in the 24th round or higher, the highest of which being shortstop Joseph Martinson, a 5th-round pick who is currently batting .247 for the team. Vermont’s young performers include designated hitter David Freitas, a 15th-round pick who is third in the league in batting with a .381 clip, and shortstop Blake Kelso, a 10th-round pick who is eighth in the league in batting with a .354 average. Outfielder Russell Moldenhauer, a 24th-round pick, is in a three-way tie for third in the league in home runs with five.
After playing three games in Vermont, Aberdeen heads to Lowell to meet the Spinners for a three-game series. The two teams met over the Fourth of July weekend where Aberdeen took two of three from Lowell. Lowell currently has the worst record in the league at 7-18 and is 13th in the league in ERA with a 4.67 mark.
But Aberdeen won’t let the opposing teams’ records affect the style of play. “I don’t think looking at records should dictate how you play,” Anderson said. “We’re going to go out and play hard every day and try to come out with six victories. That’s our mindset, going out and trying to win every day.”
Mike Gonzalez Update
Baltimore Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez made what is expected to be his final rehab appearance at Aberdeen on Tuesday night, throwing 1.2 innings and giving up a solo home run while striking out two batters. In his four rehab appearances at Aberdeen, Gonzalez was 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA over five innings, giving up three runs and two home runs. According to Gonzalez, any subsequent rehab appearances will be at Norfolk, Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate.
Tuesday night was Gonzalez’s first appearance since pitching back-to-back nights for the first time all year at Bowie on Friday and Saturday. “It took a little more recovery than what I thought, but the thing is that I had no pain and that’s a good thing,” he said. “Today was a good day to see if it was a step forward or staying the same and more or less it was taking a step forward.”
In his last two outings for the IronBirds, Gonzalez has been focusing on his breaking pitch. “I know that my breaking pitch had some good bite to it,” he said. “I got some swings and misses, I threw some for strikes, and that’s exactly what I was working for today.”
At least two members of the Orioles front office were at the game to meet with Gonzalez and Kendall afterwards to discuss Gonzalez’s future.
“From what I feel, I feel like I can compete in the big leagues right now,” Gonzalez, who is rehabbing a shoulder injury, said. “I felt like I could be in the big leagues yesterday but that obviously wasn’t the case.”
Kendall and other IronBirds had said that having Gonzalez around the clubhouse was a positive for the team. “It’s been awesome,” Anderson said. “I was trying to pick his brain right after this outing and he was saying that if you feel like you’re rushing, make sure you give yourself enough time, stay back, make sure you collect yourself so your arm can get up and so you can throw downhill. Having him around has been awesome. I’m glad to see him leave and actually get up to the bigs.”
Gonzalez feels that he will re-join the Orioles soon.
“I definitely feel positive about the situation,” Gonzalez said. “I accomplished what I needed to down here and that was getting my breaking pitch over for a strike and for a strikeout.”
In other roster news, the Orioles 43rd-round draft pick from UCLA, Blair Dunlap, has joined the team and will be eligible to play once his contract is approved by the major league office.
Also, reliever David Walters was transferred to Delmarva. Walters, who served primarily as the team’s closer, was 2-0 with three saves and a 0.00 ERA over 10.0 innings of work.