– The Thunder can’t seem to get past the Harrisburg Senators, having lost five straight to them, including all three games on the road and the first two games of a critical five game series. This afternoon’s tough 2-1 loss dropped the team to two games under .500 (50-52), which ties the furthest under the mark they’ve been since dropping to 40-43 on July 7th.
Jason Stephens, who said after the game that he expects to remain in the starting rotation for the time being, gave up seven hits through just three and a third innings, but escaped with only one run allowed.
“You leave the balls over the middle of the plate, and they get hit,” Stephens said.
“Some of them weren’t well hit, and I got a few unlucky breaks. But when you leave the ball in the zone, they’re going to hit it. I’ve just got to stay out of the middle of the plate. I don’t throw hard enough to live there.”
Considering the Thunder had scored just 11 runs in their previous five games, one run was all that Stephens could afford to give up.
While any pitcher would be unwise to live over the middle of the plate, Stephens hasn’t known where he’ll be living at all at some points this season, having been shuttled between Tampa, Trenton and Scranton.
“All year, it’s been back and forth,” said Stephens of his roles and team assignments.
“It’s not terrible. It’s something that I’ve gotten used to, because I’ve done it for the past two seasons. It’s definitely harder to go from relieving to starting, because you’ve got to work your pitch counts back up. I’m going through that now. That’s why I didn’t have a lot of pitches and I came out early.”
Jesus Montero tied the game at one in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI double to left field, the ball just evading the outstretched arm of Senators left fielder Marvin Lowrance.
After outstanding relief work out of Humberto Sanchez, the game remained tied at one when it was handed over to Grant Duff to start the seventh inning.
Harrisburg would score their winning run on a wild pitch by Duff, with the offering sailing over Harrisburg catcher Luke Montz’s head.
“He uncorked one high over Anson’s head, and there’s the difference,” Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. “Otherwise, we’d still be playing,”
The Thunder had their chances late, but failed to execute on two bunts in the final two innings. Noah Hall popped out to the pitcher in the eighth, and Marcos Vechionacci got way too much on a bunt down the first base line in the ninth, leading pinch runner Justin Snyder to get thrown out at second.
Players practice bunting every day in batting practice, so Franklin seems to think it’s just a matter of execution more than it is anything else.
“I think we’re preparing well enough,” Franklin said.
“We do pretty good pre-game stuff, but we’re not seeing it happen in the game. And that happens when you’re in circumstances like this.”
Franklin seemed to agree with an assessment that the team is in a funk at the moment.
“The physical skills that they have, have not left them,” Franklin said.
“Their ability to hit and run and throw and field, it’s not left them, it’s there. It’s just a matter of being able to do it right now.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com