Aberdeen continued its string of late-inning heroics on Tuesday night against Auburn, this time courtesy of first baseman Michael Flacco’s game-winning double off Travis Garrett to score third baseman Adam Gaylord and give the IronBirds an 8-7 walk-off win and a three-game sweep of the Doubledays.
The IronBirds came into the ninth trailing 7-6. Second baseman Omar Casamayor led off the inning with a single to center. Then leftfielder Kipp Schutz laid down a sacrifice bunt up the third base line. Auburn’s Matthew Johnson came in to field the ball and throw to first for the out, but no Doubleday covered third base, allowing Casamayor to advance all the way around. Then Gaylord doubled to score Casamayor before Flacco came up to finish the job on Garrett (1-2, 6.10).
But before Aberdeen’s heroics, Auburn had some of their own.
With Aberdeen leading 6-5 in the ninth and a runner on first and two outs, catcher Jack Murphy lifted a T.R. Keating pitch over the 404 mark in right-center field to give Auburn a 7-6 lead and seemingly a win.
Prior to this, one of the greatest IronBirds comebacks of the year happened.
Down 5-0 in the bottom of the eighth, the IronBirds started their comeback off reliever Michael Kelly behind a leadoff single by designated hitter Trent Mummey. Casamayor singled to send Mummey to second, but leftfielder Kipp Schutz flied out to left. Third baseman Adam Gaylord collected his fourth hit of the night, a single to left field to score Mummey from second. First baseman Michael Flacco followed up Gaylord’s single by grounding out to shortstop Gustavo Pierre, but Pierre’s throw to second base went into right field, allowing both Casamayor and Gaylord to score and Flacco to end up on second.
After centerfielder Jeremy Nowak grounded out to advance Flacco to third, Kelly was lifted for righthander Drew Permison to face pinch-hitter David Anderson. Anderson promptly singled in Flacco to make the score 5-4. After a wild pitch and two walks, the IronBirds had the bases loaded for Mummey, Sunday night’s hero. But Austin Knight was able to tie the game 5-5 when Permison had a pitch get away from him to the backstop. A few pitches later, a Permison pitch in the dirt got away from catcher Jack Murphy, allowing Joe Oliveira to score and give the IronBirds the lead 6-5. Mummey was not able to capitalize though, grounding out to end the inning and stranding Austin Rauch at third.
Gaylord was Aberdeen’s most successful batter of the evening, going 5-for-5 with a double, two RBIs, and two runs scored.
“He squared up some balls,” manager Gary Kendall said. “The other one was a bloop single, but he squared up some balls tonight and did a really nice job and made things happen for us in the clean up spot.”
“I was seeing the ball well,” Gaylord, who is batting .323 said. “I got a little help on one of the hits they gave me from the second baseman who was out there. But besides that, I felt like I was seeing the ball well. My swing feels good right now and I’ll hopefully I’ll keep doing well on this roadtrip.”
“That game there was one of the crazier I’ve seen,” Kendall added.
Flacco was 2-for-4 with a double, RBI, and run scored. He’s batting .246 on the year.
“I figured they wanted to get ahead of me,” he said. “He came right at me with a fastball right down the middle and I finally hit one.”
Flacco’s game-winning double was to deep centerfield, over centerfielder Markus Brisker’s head. “I knew I crushed it,” Flacco said. “I didn’t know how deep he was playing, but I saw him running back pretty hard. I was confident it was over his head.”
Auburn got up early in the second when Murphy doubled and shortstop Gustavo Pierre reached on an error by Aberdeen shortstop Auburn Donaldson to put runners on first and second with nobody out. IronBirds starter Justin Anderson uncorked a wild pitch to allow each runner to advance before issuing a walk to rightfielder Stephen McQuail to load the bases. Anderson ran the count to 3-0 on first baseman Yudelmis Hernandez before inducing a groundball that Gaylord threw to first to get one out, allowing Murphy to score. Auburn added another run two batters later when second baseman Oliver Dominguez beat out Donaldson’s throw from the hole at short, allowing Pierre to score and giving Auburn a 2-0 lead.
The IronBirds loaded the bases twice in the first three innings but came up empty both times off Auburn starter Casey Lawrence. In the first inning centerfielder Jeremy Nowak grounded out to second to end the threat. In the third, Casamayor, Schutz, and Gaylord strung together three consecutive singles before Flacco grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Baltimore Orioles reliever Mike Gonzalez saw what could be his final rehab appearance in the minor leagues before rejoining the Orioles. Gonzalez came on with runners on first and third in the top of the fifth. He got Pierre to struck out swinging for the second out of the inning before getting McQuail to pop out to Casamayor in short right field. Gonzalez cruised into the sixth, getting Hernandez to strike out and Brisker out on a nice play in short right field by Flacco. But Gonzalez ran into trouble with Dominguez, as the second baseman hit his first home run of the year beyond the 378 mark in right field. Then Johnson singled up the middle and stole second, but Gonzalez escaped the inning by getting leftfielder Marcus Knecht to ground out to second.
“It’s one of those things where you never want to give up a home run, but at the end of the day it was a good first-pitch strike down in the zone,” Gonzalez said. “You can’t get too mad at that one.”
“It’s always good to be able to go out and see some runners out there on base and not let them score. That’s what you’re trying to do so I felt good about that also,” he said.
The Doubledays added runs in the top of the fourth and fifth to push their lead to 4-0. Hernandez sent an Anderson into the IronBirds bullpen beyond right field in the fourth, and in the fifth Knecht doubled to right to score shortstop Matthew Johnson from first after he reached on an error by Donaldson.
Until Kelly and Permison in the eighth inning and Garrett in the ninth, Auburn’s pitching had been fantastic. Lawrence went seven shutout innings allowing only seven hits and dropping his ERA to 0.61.
Anderson had his shortest outing of the year, lasting only 4.1 innings. He surrendered four runs (two earned) on five hits, three walks, while striking out two. Anderson was not helped by his defense, as Donaldson recorded two errors. Gonzalez’s final line was 1.2 innings pitched and one run on two hits. Lefthander Jason Gurka pitched two shutout innings before Keating (1-1, 5.11) pitched the ninth.
Anderson struggled and had his shortest outing of the season.
“My arm was dragging and I wasn’t getting on top of the ball and working downhill,” he said. “When you do that, your pitches kind of flatten out and that’s when they get hit.”
“I felt like I was rushing and I was trying to stay back, but I really couldn’t make that adjustment,” he added. “It might have been just one of those nights, but I have to make sure to bounce back next start.”
Aberdeen embarks on a six-game road trip from July 14 through July 19. The team meets the Vermont Lake Monsters for three games before traveling to Lowell to play a three-game set with the Spinners. Vermont currently has the best record in the New York-Penn League at 17-7 while Lowell has the worst record in the league at 7-17. Currently, Scott Copeland (0-2, 4.50) is scheduled to start game one against Bobby Hansen (2-1, 3.60), Justin Moore (2-0, 2.11) is scheduled against Chris McKenzie (1-0, 6.59) for game two, and Tyler Sexton (0-2, 10.06) is scheduled to finish the series against Taylor Jordan (1-0, 2.63). Tim Adleman (0-1, 3.10) and Bruno Sanchez (1-1, 5.06) are scheduled to start the first two games of the Lowell series. Aberdeen returns for a five-game homestand from July 20 through July 24 against Tri-City and Hudson Valley.