It seems being back at Ripken Stadium is helping the IronBirds forget the winless, six-day road trip they returned from this week, and the seven-game losing streak they carried through Monday, as Aberdeen picked up its second straight win Wednesday night, beating Brooklyn, 5-2.
The victory pushed the IronBirds to 12-26 for the season. Through Wednesday's win, Aberdeen was still in the cellar of the New York-Penn League's four-team McNamara Division, 5.5 games behind Brooklyn, 8.5 games in back of Staten Island and trailing first-place Hudson Valley by 15.5 games.
The two-game sweep of Brooklyn marked the first time Aberdeen has pieced together consecutive victories since July 11 and July 12, when the IronBirds took the final two games of their season-best six-game win streak.
Before the IronBirds' Wednesday win, Aberdeen skipper Matt Merullo talked about his team rebounding from its long winless spells.
"The worst thing you can do in professional baseball is panic, and start to worry about everything," Merullo said. "All I've asked of these guys is to hustle, play defense and play aggressive, and really there's nothing else to do. There isn't any panic. These guys have been through some tough times together already."
Wednesday started on a down note for Aberdeen as Brooklyn hung one run on starter Patrick Connaughton via a walk and two singles in its first at-bat, but the hosts wasted little time answering. In the home half of the first, Jay Gonzalez led off with a bunt and motored around to third on a throwing error, then scored when Justin Viele's grounder to short was misplayed. Austin Anderson followed with a ground-rule double over the fence in center, and Alex Murphy knocked Viele home on an RBI single to left. Riley Palmer capped the rally with a bunt single that allowed Anderson to race home from third.
Brooklyn cut the Aberdeen lead to 3-2 in the third, scoring once on reliever Max Schuh.
Aberdeen's Jamil Moquete reached on a fielding error with one out in the fourth and was knocked home when Oswill Lartiguez belted a triple to the corner in right.
Lartiguez was back at it again in the seventh, leading off with his second triple of the contest. It was announced after the victory that Lartiguez was the fourth player in IronBirds club history with two triples in one nine-inning game.
"He can really play," IronBirds hitting coach Scott Thomas said of Lartiguez before the center fielder's historic performance Wednesday. "He's got a lot of ability, and he's just a fun player to watch. He wants to go out there and get after it every night."
Lartiguez scored the game's final tally on Viele's groundout to short.
Schuh (1-0) went two innings to earn his first win of the season, holding Brooklyn to three hits.
Nik Nowottnick had the longest stint on the mound, throwing four innings of relief during which he struck out two, did not allow a walk and held Brooklyn to two hits. Derrick Bleeker closed out the game, striking out three, allowing no walks and surrendering one hit over two innings to earn the save. Connaughton struck out one and walked one in one inning.
'Birds hold on for win
Back home for the first time in more than a week, and still smarting from a brutal and winless six-game road trip, the IronBirds snapped a seven-game losing skid on Tuesday with a 7-6 win over Brooklyn.
The IronBirds were leading, 7-2, in the eighth when reliever Josh Walker, who had thrown a hitless seventh, surrendered three earned runs on four singles, allowing the guests to creep within two.
IronBirds closer Ivan Hernandez came on in the ninth and allowed a 2-2 single to the leadoff hitter, then recorded the first out on a fly to left. A three-pitch strikeout brought the guests to their final out, but Brooklyn got to Hernandez for a run on back-to-back infield singles, cutting Aberdeen's lead to 7-6. With the tying run on second, Hernandez, who hit 95 mph on the Ripken Stadium radar gun, ended the game with a four-pitch punchout.
"He's shown a lot of poise out there," Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo said of Hernandez. "He's savvy, mixes up his pitches well, and has a really good fastball."
Aberdeen starter Stephen Tarpley (1-1), the Orioles' third-round pick in last year's MLB draft, earned his first win of the season, going six innings in which he struck out seven, walked one and allowed two earned runs on four hits.
"I felt good," Tarpley said after the game. "I was relaxed, I wasn't thinking a lot, and I just pitched to contact and strikeouts happened. [When] I gave up those runs, I told myself to keep throwing strikes, and after that inning I just shut my mind down and focused on getting the next batter."
Trailing, 2-0, after Brooklyn scored twice in the top of the third, Aberdeen answered in the home half of the inning, as Jamil Moquete led off with a home run that bounced off the visiting clubhouse beyond the left field wall. Jay Gonzalez followed with a double, moved to third on Oswill Lartiguez's groundout, then scored on Alex Murphy's single to left.
In the bottom of the fifth, Austin Anderson reached with a one-out triple to center, then quickly scored the go-ahead run on an RBI single from Murphy. Hector Veloz and Riley Palmer followed with base hits to score Murphy, while Justin Viele knocked Veloz home with another single to put Aberdeen up, 5-2. Steve Wilkerson capped the rally, and drove home what would be the game-winning run, via a two-out, two-RBI double to left that scored Palmer and Viele.