For the second time this season, the IronBirds have found themselves at the head of the pack in the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division.
A pair of victories on Tuesday and Wednesday, one after a 10-inning slugfest and the other a low-scoring pitching duel, put the Aberdeen club one game ahead of second-place Hudson Valley in the division standings. Through Wednesday, Brooklyn was 1.5 games behind Aberdeen and last-place Staten Island trailed the IronBirds by six games.
After a Thursday contest with Auburn, Aberdeen continued its six-game road trip with three matchups against the Batavia Muckdogs. Monday everyone in the league has a break, and Tuesday is the New York-Penn League's All-Star Game, which will be played at Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers.
Earlier this week, the IronBirds' Mike Yastrzemski, Baltimore's 14th-round pick in this year's MLB June draft, was named at the Orioles Minor League Offensive Player of the Month for July.
The announcement came just before Yastrzemski was picked as one of the starting outfielders for the American League side for the upcoming New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
Through Wednesday's game, Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall of Fame inductee Carl Yastrzemski, led all full-time IronBirds players in slugging average (.513) and on-base percentage (.436) and had the team's second-best batting average (.325).
The left-handed hitting outfielder, who will turn 23 in two weeks, ripped his third professional home run in Aberdeen's wild, 10-9 extra-inning win over Auburn.
Workhorse of the staff
So far this season, Sebastian Vader, the IronBirds' 21-year-old right-handed starter, who has been with the Orioles' organization since being picked up in 2010, has provided with those two qualities coaches love so much: quality and quantity.
Through his Wednesday appearance, during which he threw seven shutout innings and held the Auburn Doubledays to just two hits, the San Marcos, Cal. native has amassed 61-1/3 innings, which is 20 more than anyone else on the IronBirds' staff. His closest competitor, Janser Severino, has a season total of 39-1/3 innings.
In his previous start on July 31, Vader nearly went the distance, a rare feat in the low minor leagues, tossing 8-1/3 innings against the Mahoning Valley squad. As with his most recent start, Vader left the game without having allowed any runs, and the Aberdeen bullpen came in to complete the shutout.
"I was very excited," Vader said after coming two outs from a complete-game shutout. "That was the first time I'd ever pitched into the ninth. It was a really close game, and I didn't want to be selfish. I just wanted to help the team win. I kind of let the [home] fans down my previous outing, and I wanted to come out strong and throw a good game."
Vader also went over the seven inning mark back on June 22, when he threw eight scoreless innings against Brooklyn.
Innings aside, Vader, Baltimore's 18th-round selection in the 2010 draft, has the second-best ERA of all the IronBirds starters (2.35), leads the team strikeouts (48), and has allowed just 13 this season.
"I do like the low amount of walks more than other stats, because it shows that I'm putting the ball over the plate, and not giving out many free bases," Vader said. "I just try to make them swing the bat, because the more strikes I throw, the less pitches I have to throw. I'm not going for strikeouts all the time. I want them to put the ball in play."
On the mindset he has used throughout his most successful professional season so far, Vader had this to say:
"It's [been] the same all year. Just go out and attack. Go right at the hitters, and if I get into jams, I'll try to work out of them. It's that simple."
Sebastian Vader tossed seven shutout innings on Wednesday night to help Aberdeen take a 3-0 victory over host Auburn.
Vader, who improved to 4-3 for the year, struck out seven, walked three and held Auburn batters to a pair of hits before being pulled prior to eighth inning.
Reliever Alex Santana mowed through the opposition over the final two innings, striking out four, walking one and allowing one hit to earn his first save of the year.
Aberdeen's only batter with multiple hits Wednesday was Austin Wynns, who went 2-for-4 with one RBI. Conor Bierfeldt was 1-for-4 with one RBI and George Barber was 1-for-4 with a home run. Federico Castagini and Trey Mancini both had one hit and scored once.
'Birds regroup in extras
The Aberdeen IronBirds seemed to have a road win in the bag on Tuesday night, taking a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth against Auburn, but the host-team Doubledays had other plans, tying things up with a three-run rally and sending the game to extra innings.
Back to square one, the IronBirds wasted no time, scoring once in the top of the 10th, then holding Auburn scoreless in its final at-bat to walk away with a 10-9 victory.
With the victory, Aberdeen moved to 24-22 for the season.
Mike Yastrzemski, named as the Baltimore Orioles' minor-league Offensive Player of the Month for July earlier this week, came through at the plate once again, hitting a home run and going 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs.
Hot off a career-best, five-RBI performance on Saturday, Bowie native Jeff Kemp had another fine turn at the plate, knocking in four runs and going 2-for-5 with a double.
Wynns was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Manny Hernandez went 4-for-5 with two runs and one RBI. Bierfeldt scored twice for Aberdeen.
Aberdeen reliever Donnie Hart (2-0) was charged with a blown save, but he regrouped to throw a scoreless 10th inning and secure the win. Over 1-2/3 innings, Hart struck out two, walked one and allowed two hits.
Starter Steven Brault lasted two innings, striking out two, walking two and allowing three earned runs on five hits.