The Brooklyn Cyclones used a bevy of extra-base hits to kill any momentum the Aberdeen IronBirds were hoping to carry over from Saturday night’s come-from-behind victory to dispatch the IronBirds 6-3 Sunday night at Ripken Stadium.
Brooklyn (6-4) jumped out to an early lead on lefthander Mike Gonzalez (0-1, 18.00), who was making a rehab appearance on his way back to join the Baltimore Orioles. Shortstop Rylan Sandoval led off with a sharp single up the middle. Designated hitter Darrell Ceciliani grounded back to Gonzalez who forced Sandoval out at second. Then, centerfielder Cory Vaughn pulled a Gonzalez pitch over the left field wall for his second home run of the year and a quick 2-0 lead. Gonzalez finished his rehab appearance for Aberdeen (4-6) without further incident.
“I was excited to get over here and take the next step,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are at, you never want to give up a homerun, but it’s just part of the process.”
Gonzalez, whom the Orioles signed in the offseason to be the team’s closer, is working his way back from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since April 9. In the major leagues, Gonzalez was 0-2 with an 18.00 ERA and one save.
“The biggest thing is my health and it feels good,” Gonzalez said. “My shoulder feels really good now.”
“We’re happy to have him and we certainly gain from his experience and what he brings to the IronBirds here, so we’re lucky to have him,” manager Gary Kendall said.
Gonzalez will appear in Tuesday’s game against Staten Island and hopes to return to Baltimore in early July.
The Cyclones added another run off of Tyler Sexton, Sunday’s originally scheduled starter, in the fourth inning. After Vaughn led off the inning with a groundout, first baseman Jeff Flagg doubled sharply into the left field corner. Sexton got leftfielder Will Cherry to strike out for the second out of the inning, but third baseman Joe Bonfe came through for Brooklyn with a double into deep right-center field that rightfielder Austin Knight could not track down. Bonfe’s double scored Flagg and gave Brooklyn a 3-0 lead.
Aberdeen had a chance to answer back in the bottom of the fourth after putting runners on first and third with only one out. Leftfielder Kipp Schutz led off the inning with a double down the right field line. After first baseman David Anderson grounded out to third, designated hitter Michael Flacco hit a long single to right field that advanced Schutz to third. However, Brooklyn pitcher Mitch Houck (2-0, 1.32) buckled down, striking out third baseman Adam Gaylord and catcher Austin Rauch to end the inning.
Brooklyn added insurance runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings to push the lead to 5-0. In the fifth inning, second baseman James Schroeder scored on a double to left-center field by Ceciliani and in the sixth, Flagg homered to straightaway center off Sexton with no outs and the bases empty.
Sexton pitched admirably for the IronBirds, entering the game in the second inning and already being down 2-0. The IronBirds’ leader in strikeouts went five innings, giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out three. Sexton’s ERA went from 6.75 to 6.18 in the appearance.
“I think there were times when I threw the ball well. There are some pitches I’d like to have back, which were pitches that were mainly up, elevated in the zone and they made me pay for sure,” Sexton said.
“He elevated too many pitchers with runners on base, too many extra-base hits and that was the same thing he went through up in Brooklyn,” Kendall said. “He just never got the ball down, never pitched like he’s capable of pitching down in the strike zone.”
“When I needed to make a good pitch, I just didn’t make it,” Sexton said.
Houck pitched well early, scattering four hits and a walk over the first five innings of play while striking out five. However, Houck ran into trouble in the sixth inning when the IronBirds finally broke through and scored a run. Schutz drew a one-out walk and went first-to-third on Anderson’s subsequent single to right field. Flacco failed to advance either runner in a popout to shallow right field. Gaylord redeemed his earlier strikeout by singling in Schutz on a ball hit to right field and cutting the Brooklyn lead to 5-1. With Anderson and Gaylord on second and third, Rauch struck out to end the inning for third time.
Aberdeen tacked on another run in the bottom of the seventh with one out when centerfielder Trent Mummey singled in shortstop Michael Rooney who tripled. With the score at 5-2, Mummey was caught trying to steal second and Knight struck out to end the threat.
For the game, Houck peppered eight hits over seven full innings of work, surrendering only two runs. Houck struck out eight IronBirds and lowered his ERA to 1.32.
“To [Brookyln’s] credit, the kid [Houck] threw some good changeups,” Kendall said. “He’s a good quality lefthander.”
He went on to say, “Their pitcher was better than us today, that was the bottom line. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, whoever watched that game that he was better than us. They outplayed us.”
For Brooklyn, Bonfe went 3-for-4 with two doubles and RBI and Ceciliani went 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, an RBI, and two runs scored. The outfielder from Madras, OR is batting .375 this year. For the game, the Cyclones recorded 13 hits, seven of which went for extra bases, scoring extra runs for the Cyclones and putting players in positions to score more runs.
Brooklyn put the finishing touches on the night in the top of the eighth when Ceciliani led the inning off with his triple off of reliever Jose Barajas and scored two batters later on Cherry’s bloop single to right that went over second baseman Omar Casamayor’s head and put the score at 6-2.
Aberdeen attempted to recapture Saturday night’s magic in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Hunter Carnevale, when Rooney and Mummey hit back-to-back doubles to cut the lead to 6-3. But outfielder Jeremy Nowak, pinch-hitting for Knight, struck out to end the game.
“All in all, we spread out ten hits, made some good runs at them, nothing with any consistency,” Kendall said. “We just came up at some key spots and couldn’t put the ball in play.”
“Ten hits, we just couldn’t put them together,” he added. “If we put four of them together then we got us something going.”
The Ironbirds used two pitchers in relief on Sunday, Barajas and Bruno Sanchez who combined to three innings of relief, giving up one run (charged to Barajas) and three hits. In his two innings of work, Barajas struck out five Cyclones.
Rooney and Mummey were the offensive stars for the IronBirds Sunday. Rooney, hitting ninth in the lineup, was 2-for-4 with a double, a triple, and two runs scored. He also raised his season batting average to .208. Mummey went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. In his first two games with Aberdeen, Mummey has been torrid, batting .556.
Of Mummey, Kendall said, “I like what I see. It’s early in the season, teams make adjustments on him, but right now he seems to be making adjustments pitch-to-pitch which you like to see young hitters make.”
Monday night the IronBirds continue their five-game homestand, beginning a three-game set with the Staten Island Yankees. The IronBirds were in Staten Island from June 23 until June 25, and the Yankees took two of three from Aberdeen. Tim Adleman (0-0, 0.00) will go for the IronBirds against Shane Greene (0-0, 7.27) of the Cyclones. Adleman, drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 24th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Georgetown University, made his professional debut on June 22 at Brooklyn where he pitched four scoreless innings and gave up two hits while striking out three batters. Aberdeen went on to lose that game 9-3. Green has not received a decision in either of his two starts. He has pitched 8.2 innings for the season and given up seven runs on 15 hits. His opponents are batting .366 against him. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Ripken Stadium.