Aeros birthday boy Jesus Aguilar ended up spending a majority of his 23rd birthday in the clubhouse after the slugger was tossed by home plate umpire John Bacon for arguing balls and strikes (and uttering a few choice curse words) on a called strikeout in the third inning.
Aguilar had already collected a two-run double that tied the game in the first inning after Altoona jumped on Aeros young starter Jordan Cooper for two runs in the top of the inning.
Had the Aeros won, perhaps Aguilar spending the rest of the afternoon in the clubhouse wouldn’t have mattered so much.
As soon as the Aeros entered the clubhouse following a 5-4 defeat, manager Edwin Rodriguez pulled aside the All-Star first baseman, who leads the Eastern League with 60 RBI.
“Twice we came up with runners on second and third with his spot up,” he said. “He needs to understand, it’s not only about him. It’s about the team and that hurt the team.”
After Cooper walked Curve left fielder Drew Maggi to lead off the game, center fielder Gregory Polanco drove him in for the first run on an infield ground out. Right fielder Alex Dickerson followed with a two-out home run to right field before Cooper was able to get out of the inning.
The Aeros quickly tied the score in the bottom of the inning, also knocking Curve starter Casey Sadler from the game. Shortstop Jose Ramirerz’s hard comebacker to the mound smacked off Sadler’s leg, forcing him to leave despite facing just one batter.
Curve left-hander Nate Baker was called on to pitch in an emergency and gave up the Aeros’ tying runs before settling in to retire 10 in a row. With the first run credited to Sadler, Baker gave Altoona the lift it needed in limiting the Aeros to a run on two hits over 4⅓ innings.
The Aeros had their own issue with a pitcher when Indians veteran right-hander Brett Myers was unable to pitch his scheduled two innings of relief. After warming up in the fifth inning, Myers motioned to his arm between innings as pitching coach Greg Hibbard looked on from the dugout. Myers then left the bullpen, jogged around the warning track, slipped into the dugout and quickly disappeared into the clubhouse.
“Since yesterday, we’d been planning on having him for those two innings today,” Rodriguez said of Myers, whom the Indians signed to a one-year, $7 million contract.
Cooper went on to do a good job of damage control after allowing three runs in the first two innings. He held the Curve pat the rest of the way, despite allowing nine hits and four walks over 5⅔ innings.
With Myers out of the bullpen, right-hander Enosil Tejeda came on in the sixth inning to strike out catcher Carlos Paulino and bail Cooper out of a two-on threat that preserved the Aeros’ one-run deficit.
The Aeros wound up scoring a game-tying unearned run in the bottom of the inning — without the aid of a hit. With one out, catcher Chris Wallace reached on an error on the shortstop, moved up a base on another error by the first baseman, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on a wild pitch by Curve reliever Zack Thorton.
The Aeros repeated the run-scoring feat without a hit again in the seventh inning to take the lead. Center fielder Tyler Holt walked, was part of a successful double steal to take second, advanced to third on another steal, then scored the go-ahead run on a balk on Altoona reliever Jhonathan Ramos’ first pitch.
But the Curve also took advantage of some shaky bullpen pitching. Without Myers to eat up two innings, rookie J.D. Reichenbach relieved Tejada with two on and just one out in the one-run game.
Reichenbach, who joined the club Saturday from high Class-A Carolina for help with that evening’s doubleheader, had a Double-A debut to forget the previous night, giving up five runs (four earned) in just 1⅔ innings in the Aeros’ 7-0 shutout loss in the second game. Reichenbach wasn’t much better Sunday, walking all three batters he faced, allowing the game’s tying and go-ahead runs to score on bases-loaded walks.