In stark contrast to his previous two starts, during which he allowed 15 earned runs over 4-2/3 innings, Orioles' first-round draft pick Matt Hobgood came through with a fine outing on Sunday night, taking a perfect game through 2-2/3 innings in the IronBirds 4-1 victory over Hudson Valley at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium.
The win put Aberdeen's win streak at four, its longest of the 2011 campaign. Through Sunday, the IronBirds were 17-32 on the year and still at the bottom of the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, 7.5 games behind third-place Hudson Valley.
Hobgood, who was the fifth overall selection of the 2009 MLB amateur draft, was making his fourth start in Aberdeen since reporting to the club in July on a rehab assignment.
The 20-year-old righty retired the first eight hitters he faced in succession, five on pop outs and three on ground balls, before surrendering a two-out single in the third. After allowing an RBI double, which accounted for Hudson Valley's only tally, Hobgood escaped the inning with his first strikeout of the evening.
"It's nice to not give up six runs, or however many I gave up in the last [start]," Hobgood said in a post-game interview. "I felt like I was very in-control of myself, of my body, and all of my pitches. I threw a couple first-pitch curveballs for strikes, and I threw a change up first pitch for a strike. I threw an 0-2 change up that I wanted to bury, but the guy wound up hitting it over second base, then the next guy hit that double."
"This outing I was able to keep runners off base for the most part," he continued. "I got behind a little bit on some of the hitters, but was able to stay confident. My arm feels good, and I was peeking up there at [the radar gun reading] to see how fast I was throwing."
In the top of the fourth, Hobgood coaxed a pair of fly outs from the first two Renegades batters, then followed by allowing his final hit of the evening, and plunking the following batter. With a man now in scoring position, the Aberdeen starter got out of the frame with his second and last strikeout of the contest.
Hobgood was lifted in the fifth after surrendering back-to-back walks. As he left with the IronBirds trailing 1-0, he had to settle for a no decision.
"I wasn't tired," Hobgood said. "I usually pride myself on finishing better than I start. I was just trying to get ahead of them, and threw a couple sinkers down that just didn't hit [the strike zone]. I'm a little disappointed with that, but I'm glad I was able to get the four innings in."
Ryan Berry, Baltimore's ninth pick of the 2011 draft, took over for Hobgood with two on and no out in the fifth, and got out of the jam by retiring the next three hitters in order. Over two innings of work, Berry (1-1) struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit to pick up his first win of the season.
Zach Petersime me came out of the Aberdeen bullpen in the seventh and worked through two innings, striking out two, allowing no walks and holding Hudson Valley to one hit.
Kyle Simon closed out the game, retiring the side in the ninth after allowing two walks in his first save of the year.
With the hosts down 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Aberdeen's offense came to life.
Connor Narron began the rally by earning a leadoff walk, moved over to second on Austin Knight's sacrifice bunt, then made it over to third when Dudley Leonora grounded out to the right side of the infield.
Kyle Hoppy drew a two-out walk, and Glynn Davis followed with a base hit to right that drove Narron home, tying things up 1-1.
With runners on the corners, Martin Serrata belted a double to left, bringing home Hoppy and Davis, and putting Aberdeen up 3-1.
Aberdeen added an insurance run in the eighth with an attempted double steal of home and second base, a move that the IronBirds have successfully pulled off several times this season.
Davis started the frame with a leadoff walk, and moved over to third when Serrata's sacrifice bunt was misplayed. With two out after Sammie Starr and Joe Velleggia went down swinging, Serrata broke for second base, drawing a throw from the Renegades' catcher. Serrata was caught, but Davis sprinted for home, crossing the plate before his teammate could be tagged for the inning-ending out.
"I feel good," Hobgood, who is recovering from a strained rotator cuff that was discovered in the off-season, said in a further assessment of Sunday's performance. "I think every start now, even if it doesn't statistically look good, I feel that I'm slowly getting my feel back for the pitches. If you can't throw your pitches for strikes, that gives the hitters the ability to zero in, whether you're throwing 89 or 95 [mph], they can look for [your fastball], whereas, if you're throwing your curveball for strikes, and your change up for strikes, it's going to make your fastball that much better. I feel that's something that I took a step forward on today, in terms of feeling more comfortable out there."