On O's farm, Aberdeen in playoffs tonight & Bowie still chasing the postseason

The playoffs begin in several leagues around Minor League Baseball tonight. For the Orioles high Single-A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds, they travel to Brooklyn for Game 1 of a best-of-three league semi-final series in the South Atlantic League.

Aberdeen (78-54) advanced by virtue of winning its division in the first half, going 43-23. Brooklyn (70-62) won the second-half going 40-26. This series winner will play the Rome-Bowling Green winner for the league championship. Aberdeen will host Game 2 with Brooklyn Thursday at 7:05 p.m. at Ripken Stadium and Game 3, if necessary, will be Friday in Aberdeen.

It may not mean much now, but Aberdeen was 13-5 in the regular season against Brooklyn, a New York Mets affiliate.

“I feel confident,” Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado, in his first season as a pro skipper, said yesterday. “We had a chance to see a bunch of their guys they recently added, and they have some good arms, but we’ll be ready for them. It should be a great series.”

Right-hander Jean Pinto (4-6, 3.83 ERA) gets the opening game start for the IronBirds against right-hander Luis Moreno (8-7, 2.84) for the Cyclones. Pinto’s ERA was 1.13 his last six Aberdeen games.

“He’s been throwing it really well. The fastball, slider and changeup were all working well, and he’s got his velocity up. He’s done a great job and is ready to go. Pumped to have him out there for Game 1 and all hands-on deck now,” Mercado said.

If Aberdeen reaches the championship series, that series would begin for them on Sunday on the road and Aberdeen would host Game 2 a week from today and Game 3 the next night, if necessary.

The IronBirds got some late-season reinforcements, adding the Orioles second, third and fourth picks from the 2022 MLB Draft. They added outfielder Dylan Beavers (taken No. 33 overall), infielder Max Wager (taken No. 42) and outfielder Jud Fabian (selected No. 67.) They also added catcher Adam Retzbach, a 14th-round pick from Lehigh.

Beavers has hit .286 in four games, Fabian is 4-for-24 (.167) in eight games and Wagner 3-for-18 (.167) in five games while Retzbach is 1-for-12 in three games. Also, outfielder Heston Kjerstad, the No. 2 pick overall in the 2020 draft has played 42 games with Aberdeen, batting .233 with a .674 OPS. He has a .797 OPS in eight games this month.

“Those guys did well, Wagner shut down third base and made some great plays this past week and barreled some balls. Fabian is starting to swing it and making good swing decisions, Beavers as well. Retzbach had a triple the other day and has been catching well. Got some news faces and hopefully they help us to move on to the championship series," said Mercado in advance of the series opener.

Bowie still chasing the playoffs: The Double-A Bowie Baysox (65-67) head into the final week of the regular season today set to play six games at Akron beginning with an 11:05 a.m. game today that could propel them into the playoffs.

Bowie is tied with Erie at 38-25 for the second-half division lead. The second-half winner will play first half winner Richmond in a best-of-three playoff series. Erie does hold the two tiebreakers over Bowie, so Bowie will need to finish one game ahead to advance. The first tiebreak is head-to-head games and the second will be record over the last 20 games. They are tied there now and if they remain tied, Erie advances.

While Bowie has had a strong second-half, they did lose four of six last week to Richmond and have lost seven of 10 overall. But a strong half overall has the Baysox in contention heading into this final week. Akron by the way, is just two games behind Bowie and Erie, so the RubberDucks are not out of it either in the division race.

But why was Bowie so much better in the second half?

“The biggest difference in our record is our pitchers got a lot better and our bullpen got a lot better,” said manager Kyle Moore in a recent interview. “We got a few good starters from Aberdeen. We got (Justin) Armbruester and we got (Noah) Denoyer. I also think that just with the players that did come up from Aberdeen, like (Connor) Norby and (Colton) Cowser, there was a little bit of a lull there after we lost (Gunnar) Henderson and (Jordan) Westburg where we were kind of piecing it together.

"Then all of the sudden the pitching staff got a lot better. We had Norby, Cowser and (Cesar) Prieto and that was like a giant jolt of energy. Everything kind of came together at one time. Then we became a really good team. Definitely has been a tale of two halves. We were beaten up by injuries early on and some guys were sick and on the IL for 10 days. We had a rough May.”

But they rebounded well and now the Baysox head into this final week chasing an Eastern League playoff spot.



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