Hunter Harvey makes Aberdeen debut tonight as IronBirds' playoff chase continues

This is the Aberdeen IronBirds' 12th year in the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League. With 16 games left in the regular season, Aberdeen is hoping for its first playoff berth.

The IronBirds are 30-26 and lead their division by 1 1/2 games over Brooklyn and 4 1/2 over Hudson Valley.

They host Hudson Valley tonight at Ripken Stadium as Hunter Harvey, the Orioles' 2013 first-round pick, makes his debut with Aberdeen.

The IronBirds have won 10 of their last 15 games and manager Matt Merullo said his team has been energized in making a playoff push.

"It has helped keep the guys focused on one goal rather than individual goals. It is something to play for at a time of the season when a lot of guys are dragging," Merullo said.

"This is short-season A-ball, but we forget sometimes that the college players have been getting after it since early February, before the full-season minor leaguers are. We're coming to the end of the dog days.

"We had a couple of rough nights in (a recent series at) Connecticut. Now it is time to get regrouped. We are playing in our division again here and it is great to have something to really play for."

Aberdeen beat Hudson Valley 5-3 last night as Trey Mancini knocked in three runs and Aberdeen improved to 15-12 at home.

If the season ended today, the IronBirds would be the only O's affiliate in the playoffs, although Triple-A Norfolk and the Gulf Coast League Orioles are just a game out of the playoffs as of today.

Meanwhile, Harvey makes his sixth pro appearance tonight and pitches at Ripken Stadium at 7:05 p.m. after working to a 1.35 ERA over 13 1/3 innings in the GCL with two walks and 18 strikeouts.

Harvey threw 60 pitches, going 3 1/3 frames in his last outing as the organization eases him into the pro ball routine.

"They just want to me to work my way into pro ball right now coming from high school," Harvey said. "They've been taking it slow with me, haven't thrown too many innings. Watching my pitch count and working that up."

In his third pro appearance, Harvey struck out eight in just three innings against the GCL Red Sox.

"That was my best in pro ball so far," he said. "I didn't feel like I was doing much different, but they just didn't hit it much. I did have everything working pretty good and my command was good and that was the main part."

Now he moves up a level and leaves one pennant chase in the Gulf Coast League for another with Aberdeen.

"It's awesome. I really want to help them out and win a championship. That'd be nice," Harvey said.

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