If Mark Appel gave himself "a B-minus or a B" in his pro debut Friday, but his grade point average went up on Tuesday morning.
The top overall pick in last month's Draft tossed three shutout innings for Tri-City, striking out five, but the ValleyCats fell to visiting Aberdeen, 8-2, in 10 innings. Appel allowed three hits and did not walk a batter.
"All three pitches were working pretty well today," he said. "I got some good swings-and-misses on the slider and changeup, and my fastball was better down in the zone than the other night. I even got a couple guys to chase the fastball up out of the zone.
"The big difference for me was that there was less adrenaline. It wasn't a big deal like my first start, it was more businesslike, and I think that's part of the reason it turned out better."
Asked when he'd last made an 11:00 a.m. start, Appel laughed.
"I don't know, but it's been a while. It's all good preparation though, and there were a lot of kids in the crowd so it was fun."
The 6-foot-5 right-hander cruised through the first two frames, allowing a two-out single to Aberdeen first baseman Trey Mancini before retiring the side in the second. Appel fanned two batters in both innings.
Appel ran into some trouble in the third, however. IronBirds second baseman Jeff Kemp led off with a line-drive double to left. After Scott Kalush went down on strikes, Aberdeen shortstop Jared Breen singled to center, sending Kemp to third. Appel uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Breen to move to second while Kemp remained at third.
With men on second and third, Aberdeen's Mike Yastrzemski (grandson of the Hall-of-Famer) flew out to left. ValleyCats left fielder D'Andre Toney made the catch and threw out Kemp, who was tagging from third, at home plate to end the threat.
"The ball wasn't hit extremely deep -- I think D'Andre took a step or two in -- and I wasn't sure whether the runner would try to score or not," Appel said. "The throw was right on the mark and he was out by three or four steps. Our outfielders have got great arms, and that was a really nice play."
That was all for Appel, whom the Astros are easing into a professional pitching schedule, though they announced Tuesday that his second Tri-City appearance will be his last for now, as the Stanford product is heading to the Astros' full-season Class A affiliate in Quad Cities. Appel joins 2013 top overall pick Carlos Correa, marking the first time in Minor League history that consecutive No. 1 overall picks have been on the same roster, according to Quad Cities. He's penciled in to start Sunday at 1 p.m. CT vs. Dayton (Tickets). Appel could conceivably rise as high as Double-A Corpus Christi before the end of the season.
"I think by the end of the summer we're trying to get up to five or six innings, but I'm taking it day-by-day. It depends on what the coaches and front office want. I have faith in the Astros' development team, and I know they don't want to be overly aggressive or try to rush things prematurely."
Tri-City got on the board in the fourth with Michael Martinez's third homer of the season, a two-run shot, but Aberdeen answered with a pair of runs on sacrifice flies in the seventh.
The ValleyCats had men on first and second with one out in the ninth, but the inning ended as Anthony Kemp struck out and Ryan Dineen was nabbed trying to steal third base.
Aberdeen took advantage of the reprieve by bringing 10 men to the plate and scoring six times in the 10th to claim the rubber match of the three-game series.
Tri-City's Kevin Comer (2-2), a supplemental first-round pick in 2011, suffered the loss after allowing four runs on three hits, two walks and a wild pitch over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three. David Richardson improved to 2-1 for Aberdeen with a pair of scoreless frames.
Kemp, center fielder Anthony Vega and designated hitter Connor Bierfeldt each had three hits for the IronBirds, who out-hit the ValleyCats, 14-8.