Prior to Aberdeen's Wednesday-night home matchup with the Vermont LakeMonsters, the IronBirds had failed to win back-to-back games this season. But that streak ended as the hosts prevailed with a 6-4 win Wednesday.
Aberdeen, which beat Tri-City Monday, was 6-20 on the year through Wednesday, putting the IronBirds at the bottom of the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, seven games in back of the Brooklyn Cyclones.
"We played some good baseball the last couple games, won on the road, then came back today and did a good job," Aberdeen manager Leo Gomez said after the game. "We had good pitching, and we scored some runs. Everything looked good. Sometimes when you win a couple games in a row, the players relax and they play better baseball. So, I think the more games you win, the more relaxed you'll be. I just hope that they keep playing the way they did tonight."
The victory came on the heels of Aberdeen's first break in more than three weeks – the IronBirds had played every day since their season opened June 17.
"A day off is always good," Gomez said. "Sometimes whey you're struggling, having a nice off day so you can stay home, relax your mind, eat good, sleep good and come back the next day strong, it helps."
Aberdeen's big inning turned out to be the fifth, during which they posted four tallies to go up 6-1. Dudley Leonora started things off with a double to left, and Chris Clinton followed by crushing a fastball into the visiting bullpen for his first homer of the season. After Mychal Givens reached base on a fielder's choice, Joe Velleggia came up, and after taking two pitches from the Lake Monster reliever, he slammed a 2-0 pitch to the same spot Clinton had two batters earlier for the inning's second two-run long ball. Velleggia, whose homer was his third of the 2011 campaign, had his best offensive showing so far, going 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs.
"I got exactly what I was looking for [on the home run]," Velleggia said. "A fastball, middle inside, and just turned on it. I hooked it a little much, but kept it far enough to the right to keep it fair. I was picking up the ball well [tonight]. The first couple at-bats it benefitted me, because I'm usually swinging too early and not seeing the ball, but [tonight] I saw the ball well enough that I got a couple hits to right field. I've just tried to calm myself down at the plate as much as I can. It's really hard to do; you tell yourself not to swing so hard, but you go up some times and the ball looks like a beach ball coming in, and you just want to hit it a mile. Tonight I did a good job of calming myself down, and hopefully I can keep it up."
The IronBirds opened the evening's scoring in the bottom of the second frame, when Velleggia cracked a base hit into right field. Following a flyout from Wynston Sawyer, Connor Narron walked to put two men on base. Austin Goolsby went down swinging for the second out. Knight followed with what appeared to be an inning-ending groundout to third, but the Lake Monster fielder misplayed the ball, putting runners at every bag. Leonora made sure the extra chance did not go to waste and bashed a single to right that scored Velleggia and Narron.
Austin Knight got things going in the home half of the sixth, lacing an 0-2 pitch the opposite way into right field for a double, but he was left stranded when the next three IronBirds, Leonora, Clinton and Davis, went down in order.
Vermont scored first in the fourth inning, getting to Aberdeen starter Parker Bridwell for a run on a double and a single. With the tying run at third base and two men down, Bridwell got out of the jam by striking out the inning's sixth hitter.
In the top of the sixth, with Bridwell sill on the mound, Vermont put two men on base via a pair of singles. After a pitching change brought Aberdeen reliever Zachary Fowler to the mound, the Lake Monsters halved the IronBird lead with a two-RBI double to right.
Vermont made things that much closer in the eighth, cracking a solo, one-out homer on Aberdeen hurler Zach Petersime to cut the host-team's lead down to 6-4.
In the top of the ninth, reliever Enrico Jimenez walked the first batter, then rebounded to get the next two hitters on a fly ball and a strikeout. With the tying run at the plate, Jose Mota was called out of the Aberdeen bullpen to get the final out. Vermont's Jordan Tripp cracked one of Mota's offerings to deep left field for what looked like a game-tying homer, but Austin Knight chased the ball down just short of the warning track to end the game.
Bridwell (2-3) went 5-2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits, striking out six and allowing one walk to earn his second win of the year.
"I felt great," Bridwell said in the clubhouse following the game. "I had six days off, so I felt a little bit better than I usually do, and my arm felt great. I had good command [of my fastball] tonight, which is a big plus. I was able to get ahead of most of the hitters, and when you do that, you can choose what pitches come next, and you can keep [the hitters] thinking. It's always good when you can throw more fastballs."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun