The Aberdeen IronBirds concluded a six-game homestead late Monday, dropping an 8-2 contest with the Auburn Doubledays at Ripken Stadium.
With the loss, the IronBirds finished with two wins and four losses since returning home June 11.
Aberdeen also fell to 13-17 on the season and into last place in the four-team McNamara Division of the New York-Penn League, five and a half games behind division leading Hudson Valley and three games behind third-place Brooklyn.
Aberdeen has a short, three-game road trip to Lowell to take on the spinners on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The IronBirds return to Ripken Stadium Friday evening to play Connecticut in a 7:05 start.
Neither team seemed in synch for Monday’s 11:05 a.m. start, as the first three innings produced a string of zeros on the scoreboard.
Auburn drew first blood in the top of the fourth, thanks to a bases loaded, two-out triple by Phil Caulfield that brought in the game’s first three runs.
The Doubledays expanded their lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth, with the two runs scoring on a fielders choice, followed by an error, and then on a double play groundout.
Aberdeen got its first run in the home half of the fifth, as Dalton Hoiles led off with a double and took third on a one-out single by Luke Ringhofer. Hoiles then scored on a groundout by Milton Ramos.
Auburn quickly got that run back in the top of the sixth after some shoddy fielding plays by Aberdeen, including a missed catch on a steal attempt that allowed a runner to come in from third.
The IronBirds scored their second and final run of the game in the home half of the sixth, when Nick Horvath led off with a triple and scored on an a single by Willy Yahn, but the potential threat ended there when the next batter grounded into a double play and the next struck out.
Auburn plated single runs in the seventh and ninth to finish the days scoring.
Gray Fenter, who relieved starter Jordan Kipper at the beginning of the fourth inning, took the loss for Aberdeen. His record fell to 2-2, with a 5.19 ERA.
First came an opening-inning fielding error by shortstop Adam Hall. Then starter Jimmy Murphy threw a wild pitch, allowing runners to move to second and third with two outs.
Those two miscues turned out to be detrimental in the Aberdeen IronBirds’ 3-2 loss to the Auburn Doubledays on Sunday afternoon. They allowed Israel Pineda to step into the batter’s box, and he capitalized by poking a two-run single to right field. It proved to be all the offensive production the Doubledays would need to hand the IronBirds their third loss in the past four games.
“We had a chance there, so you always like to have a chance late in the game,” IronBirds Manager Kyle Moore said. “But the first couple of innings was where the difference was made. We came out maybe not locked in, ready to go for a four o'clock afternoon game, and made a couple of mistakes there that cost us.”
The IronBirds’ lack of clutch hitting (12 runners left on base) meant Murphy took the loss despite allowing one earned run in a career-high six innings. Following a sacrifice fly in the second inning that put the Doubledays ahead, 3-0, he threw four consecutive scoreless frames. In total, he allowed seven hits and recorded a pair of strikeouts against zero walks.
Murphy, who boasts a 2.92 ERA in 24.2 innings, is still transitioning into being a starter for the IronBirds (13-16). He started three times last year in his first professional season and then began this summer in the bullpen. He’s since made four starts, however, going at least three innings in each outing.
On Sunday, he credited his lengthy appearance to the Doubledays’ aggressiveness at the plate, which allowed him to retire hitters quickly and keep his pitch count low.
“Just trying to compete and execute pitches,” Murphy said. “Errors are going to happen, so you’re going to have to bounce back from them, and I think those can dictate how your start ends up, how you respond to some of that stuff. So, it is what it is. It’s a tough loss, but there’s definitely some positives to gain from it.”
The IronBirds had plenty of chances to provide Murphy with run support. Their first run came in the second inning on an RBI double from Jaylen Ferguson, but the frame ended with him stranded on third after a ground out and a flyout. The IronBirds then put a runner on in five of the next seven innings but did not score their second run until the eighth frame. That’s when Seamus Curran knocked home Nick Horvath with a two-out RBI double.
But after a walk, which put the go-ahead run on base, right-hander Angel Guillen struck out Robert Neustrom to escape the jam.
Guillen picked up his second win of the season thanks to a five-inning relief appearance, during which he allowed one run on four hits.
“They threw the ball over the plate and challenged hitters,” Doubledays manager Jerad Head said of his pitchers. “Pitched to contact if you will, but they bared down and got that out when they needed to.”
Following the IronBirds 6-1 win Wednesday night over the Brooklyn Cyclones to start the homestead, Aberdeen was shut out, 6-0, by the Cyclones on Thursday night and then lost again, 3-2, to Brooklyn on Firday.
Auburn arrived in town on Saturday, and the IronBirds greeted their visitors with an 8-2 thrashing, scoring single runs in the second and third innings and two more in the sixth, the latter coming on a two-run double by Alexis Torres.
After Auburn got on the board with two runs in the top of the seventh, the IronBirds answered with four of their own in the home half of the inning, thanks to a two-run double by Willy Yahn, an RBI groundout by Jaylen Furguson and a run scoring double by Torres that capped the game’s soring.
Hector Guance started on the mound for Aberdeen, pitching six innings to get the win. Guance (2-2) gave up two runs on four hits and a walk and struck out six, dropping his season ERA to 4.45.