Aeros birthday boy Jesus Aguilar ended up spending a majority of his 23rd birthday chillin’ 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.
For the record, 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 frame.
Had Aeros gone on and won, perhaps Aguilar spending the rest of the afternoon in the air-conditioned clubhouse getting a jump on packing for the upcoming roadtrip wouldn’t have matterde so much.
But as soon as the Aeros made their way into 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,” Rodriguez said. “He needs to understand, it’s not only about him. It’s about the 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 of the game on an infield ground out. The next batter, right fielder Alex Dickerson, followed with a two-out home run to right field before Cooper was able to get out of the rough inning.
But the Aeros quickly tied the score in the bottom of the inning while also knocking Curve starter Casey Sadler from the game. Shortstop Jose Ramirerz’s hard comebacker to the mound smacked off Sadler’s right leg, forcing him to leave despite facing just one batter.
Curve left-hander Nate Baker was called on to pitch in an emergency and dished up the Aeros tying runs before settling in to retire 10 consecutive. Witht the first run credited to Sadler, Baker went on to give Altoona the lift it needed in limiting the Aeros to a run on two hits over 4 1/3 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 dissapeared 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 on year, $7 million contract during the off season. “So that definitely shuffled everything.”
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 5 2/3 innings.
But with Myers out of the bullpen mix, right-hander Enosil Tejeda came on in the sixth inning to strikeout catcher Carlos Paulino and bail Cooper out of a two-on threat that preserved the Aeros one-run deficit.
The Aeros wound up plating a game-tying unearned run in the bottom of the inning – without out aid of 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. Centerfielder 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’d 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. The young lefty dished up five runs (four earned) in just 1 2/3 innings in the Aeros 7-0 shutout loss in Game Two.
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.