TROY, NY- Despite a strong start from Mark Appel in his second start with the team, more struggles from the offense and bullpen led to the fourth loss in a six-game home stand for the ValleyCats, as they fell to the Aberdeen Ironbirds 8-2. Playing in extra innings for the second consecutive game, the 'Cats couldn't accomplish back-to-back walk off victories, as Aberdeen scored six times in the decisive 10th inning in a Tuesday matinee in front of 4, 564.
As for Appel, his second start, at least from a statistics perspective, went much better than his first. In three scoreless innings, Appel allowed just three hits and struck out five, with three of the punch-outs coming from a devastating slider. Appel received assistance in his start from 'Cats left fielder D'Andre Toney in the third, with runners at second and third with just one out. Aberdeen left fielder Mike Yastrzemski hit a fly ball to left field that Toney caught in shallow left field, and the runner at third, Aberdeen's Jeff Kemp, decided to try to tag and score. Toney's throw home was right on point, as Tri-City catcher Jake Rodriguez applied the tag to end the inning. It was the last pitch Appel would throw in his three-inning appearance. After the game, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft said he felt better in this outing than he did in his first.
"I thought I was a little more in control than I was in my first outing Friday," said Appel. "My off-speed pitches were good, my fastball was down for the most part…it was another good outing, and another stepping stone to build off of."
It was a mild surprise when Appel came out to pitch the third. Having thrown 27 pitches through three innings, one more than he did in his start Friday when he went just two frames, Ed Romero let the righty go out to pitch the third. After the game, Appel was promoted to Class-A Quad Cities. In his first five professional innings with the 'Cats, Appel allowed two runs and struck out six.
The 'Cats two runs came on a two-run opposite field home run off the bat of Michael Martinez in the 4th inning, that put the team on top 2-0. The score remained the same going into the top of the 7th, before Evan Grills loaded the bases with none out. After Kevin Comer (2-2) came in and gave up back-to-back sacrifice flies, the game was even at two apiece. The score was deadlocked until the 10th, with Comer still on the mound, Conor Bierfeldt drove home the go-ahead run with a two-out single.
The damage was hardly done, however. After a Kristopher Richards hit brought home Bierfeldt, Pat Christensen was brought in to pitch to Anthony Vega, who promptly drove the first pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run. Aberdeen added another run, the sixth of the inning, to make the score 8-2, which was the tally they would win by.
Tri-City had a golden chance in the 7th inning to break the tie, with runners on the corners and just one out. Chan Moon, trying to lay down a safety squeeze bunt, instead popped out to the pitcher for the second out. Toney followed up with a groundout to end the inning.
In the 9th, the 'Cats had two runners on and one out, but a strike out from Tony Kemp was combined with a caught stealing of Ryan Dineen at third to end the frame. Overall, Tri-City left seven runners on base, and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, bringing their four-game total to 3-for-39. In the six game homestand, the 'Cats scored just 15 runs.
The 'Cats hit the road for a six game road trip. The first three games are in Mahoning Valley, followed by three against the Muckdogs in Batavia. Tomorrow's probables are Adrian Houser (0-0, 1.98) for the ValleyCats and RHP Dace Kime (0-0, 4.50) for the Scrappers. The ValleyCats will return home on Wednesday, July 17th against the Auburn Doubledays.