Eric Hacker, Mike Dunn and Jhonny Nunez combined to allow one run on five hits while striking out 11 to give the Trenton Thunder a 1-0 lead in their best of five Eastern League Division Series against the Portland Sea Dogs.
Hacker got the somewhat surprising Game One nod, and showed it was well deserved after putting together his 18th consecutive start without allowing any more than three runs in a Thunder uniform.
While not particularly efficient — he threw nearly 100 pitches in only five and two thirds innings of work — he was effective enough to give his team a chance to win.
“They made me battle out there, they’re a good team,” said Hacker of the Sea Dogs.
“I just wanted to put this team on the board and get us ahead, and give us a chance to take the lead in this series. I’d like to go a little deeper in the game, but I felt that if I could give it to the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning, that we had a really good chance to win.”
After putting two runners on base with two outs in the sixth, manager Tony Franklin came out and made a somewhat surprising call to the bullpen, going with relative unknown Mike Dunn.
Dunn, who made his only appearance with the Thunder in the last game of the regular season on Monday, was outstanding, using a fastball and two sliders to get a three-pitch strikeout in that situation and giving the team an additional two outs to bridge the gap to Nunez.
“Dunn did a great job getting that out in the sixth inning, that was a big out for us right there,” Franklin said.
“The fact that he’s only been here for a short period of time, that doesn’t deter me from pitching him, it doesn’t deter Scott (Aldred) from pitching him. If his stuff is good and he’s got the ability to throw strikes, he should be able to get guys out.”
Dunn is the very definition of getting thrown into the fire, and he certainly didn’t seem to mind.
“I love it,” he said.
“It’s a good thing that they have that faith in me, just being here in only my second game. To put me in that situation, it makes me feel real good.”
Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Dunn’s been in this very spot. In 2006, he was called up to the Staten Island Yankees from the Gulf Coast League to help them in the postseason as well.
“I’ve been in that role before, so I kind of have that experience. I knew what to expect,” he said.