After last night's shutout loss the Ironbirds came into the game facing elimination in their best-of-3 series with the Tri-City Valley Cats (Houston affiliate). Orioles 2013 1st round draft selection, (RHP) Hunter Harvey took the mound seeking to do his part to extend Aberdeen's season. And that he did.
Harvey retired the first 10 batters he faced, with only one ball leaving the infield in fair territory, a weak popout to left field. His fastball and curveball combo were too much for the Tri-City hitters (not to mention New York Penn League hitters in general). The only trouble he experienced on the night was contained to 2 hit-by-pitches he issued in the 4th while attempting to establish his fastball on the inside portion of the plate. But his obstinance would pay off as he used the establishment of his ownership of the inside part of the zone to K 3 more hitters post-HBPs.
All in all, Harvey would pitch 5 shutout, no-hit innings, allowing just the 2 HBPs to reach base while striking out a career high 7 hitters, all of them swinging. Quite a debut for the young Hunter: 30.1 innings pitched between the GCL and Aberdeen. A 1.50 ERA with 40 Ks to 6 BBs and just 21 hits allowed. He has established himself as the O's 3rd best pitching prospect, behind Dylan Bundy and Eduardo Rodriguez, and a certain Top 100 prospect in all of MLB. He will most certainly start off as the Opening Day starter for the Delmarva Shorebirds in 2014, and judging by the quality of his stuff, he could well make his way to Frederick at some point next season if the O's brain trust wants to be aggressive with his development. I, personally, have found myself a bit, in the words of Alan Greenspan, 'irrationally exuberant' in regards to the future potential of Mr. Harvey. There is still a lot of development left for him, most importantly with regard to his change-up. But the mold is there for a player with 3 future Plus pitches and a mid-to-top of the rotation starter.
In spite of Harvey's fantastic effort, the offense was seemingly infected by the same offensive bugaboo as the major league Birds. In the 1st inning they put runners on 1st & 3rd with 1 out, but a GIDP put the kibosh on that inning. Following the 1st the Ironbirds would see 11 consecutive batters set down before putting 2 men on in the 5th. But a flyout to CF would end that inning before any runner could reach the plate. Then, in the 6th, (CF) Mike Yastrzemski led off the inning by earning a HBP. He would go on to steal 2nd and then advance to 3rd with just 1 out after a ground out. But a strikeout and a flyout would strand him there. The 7th would start off with another Ironbirds threat, with runners on 2nd & 3rd after a HBP and a Double. But a groundout failed to plate the runner from 3rd before an intentional walk was issued to load the bases and create a force at any base. The gambit would pay off for the Valley Cats as pinch-hitter (OF) Tanner Rust would GIDP to end the threat. All in all for the Ironbirds on the night: 0-7 with RISP and 6 runners left on base. Ouch.
Tri-Cities threatened in the 6th, with runners on 1st & 3rd, with 2 outs. But (RHP) Janser Severino was able to K the batter to end the inning at a scoreless tie. He would not be so fortunate in the 7th, as he allowed 2 doubles and 2 singles along with a wild pitch, which would add up to 2 runs for the Valley Cats. (RHP) Jimmy Yacobonis would come on in the 8th and allow an additional run via 3 hits, but the game was already effectively out of reach.
So, thus ends a exciting season for the Ironbirds, which saw them reach the postseason for the first time in club history. Many of these players will graduate to Delmarva to start next season, and it will be exciting to watch them continue to develop. I certainly can't wait!