— Really, this game was all about what didn’t happen. Pat Venditte didn’t make his Double-A debut, Andrew Brackman didn’t crap the bed in the sixth inning and New Hampshire didn’t keep up with the Thunder.
— Brackman scuffled a little bit in the first and sixth innings. The first…that happens, but the sixth? Well, that raised some eyebrows, as it seems that he always struggles after around five innings of work. This time, however, he minimized the damage and left the game with six innings under his belt and a 3-2 lead.
“I think I had like an eight pitch at-bat, and I started getting a little tired out there,” he told me.
“It’s late in the season, and you’ve got to fight through it when you get in trouble like that. I got the last guy to pop up and got out of it.”
Brackman said after the game that he felt like stuff-wise, this was his best outing.
“I felt like all four of my pitches were pretty good, doing what I wanted them to do,” he said. “My arm felt great today, so I just went out there and tried to take advantage of it.”
Thunder skipper Tony Franklin didn’t disagree with Brackman’s assessment.
“He was really good tonight,” he said.
“What I really liked about him was his tempo was good. It was up, it was quick. He got the ball, he went to work. I don’t know how many ground balls out he produced to Joseph, I counted four or five. He was outstanding tonight, I liked what I saw.”
You should also check out what Brack had to say about possibly pitching Game 1. That’s in the paper…hopefully, you’ll notice that I don’t use blog quotes in the paper and don’t use quotes from the paper on the blog.
— You can call Justin Christian butter…because he’s on a roll. Doesn’t mean you should, just means you can. In any event, Christian knocked two solo home runs over the left field fence — the only two hits Trenton had through eight innings — to put them past the Aeros tonight.
He’s really kicked his game up a few notches this past five weeks or so. He hit .324 in the month of August, and certainly got his September off to a hot start as well. Simply put…he’s on a roll.
“I hope he stays on it,” Franklin said.
“When you’re on a roll like that, you just hope that it lasts for a long period of time. He’s playing pretty well right now, so I’m hoping he stays on it.”
When asked to describe both at-bats in which he connected for longballs — his second multi-home run game of the season, by the way — his veteran approach really stands out.
“The first one was a 3-1 count, I believe,” he said. “It was a fastball, a little up and in. They had done that in the past the first game, and I just was looking middle in and I was just looking for a pitch to handle.”
“Second one, I believe it was a slider. I hadn’t really seen that kid before, but they had gotten me out on a slider previously with the other pitcher. I was out in front a little bit, this time I was just trying to stay back and barrel up a pitch. Like I said, I’d been missing a few pitches the last couple games, so I was trying to focus a little more.”
Christian is enjoying a career-long 15-game hitting streak, and says this is as locked in as he’s felt at the plate this season.
“I’ve gone a couple weeks where I’ve felt great and a couple weeks where I haven’t,” he said.
“The last couple weeks, I’ve felt pretty good. Coming off of surgery, probably the last month or so is where I’ve really started feeling 100 percent. It just takes time. But the last couple weeks, it’s been good.”
— Venditte addressed reporters for about five minutes before the game, basically explaining what he does in terms of declaring before pitches and if he’s had any issues with umpires and so on. There really wasn’t too much new information that came out of it. Venditte started throwing from both sides at age 3, which his dad started him on, etc. Things you likely know already. You also know Venditte is a bit of a novelty act. An effective one, yes. But a novelty act nonetheless.
“This is my job,” he said.
“I have to get hitters out, that’s my main job. If I don’t do that, I’m not going to be here. I don’t really know how the fans see me, but I know if I want to stay here, I have to produce. That’s really where I’m at.”
It was interesting to see the attention he generated in the stands and in the clubhouse, though. Dan Brewer was quick to try on Venditte’s huge Mizuno glove, and Justin Snyder — of course — was cracking jokes about Venditte can get guys out with both arms.
Venditte was interacting with fans before the game, signing a ton of autographs on the numerous baseball cards he already has. There was one card, a Tampa Yankees one, which pictures him throwing from both sides. I kind of need that card. It’s very, very cool.
— Wilkin De La Rosa was really, really outstanding tonight. Two perfect innings and a sweet defensive play on the mound. Given what he’s been through lately, this shouldn’t be overlooked.
— J.B. Cox picked up his second save of the season tonight, pitching on back-to-back days despite a fully replenished bullpen. I asked Franklin about this after the game.
“Who else were we going to go to,” he asked.
When Josh Schmidt’s name was mentioned — Remember him? There was a time he actually pitched for the Thunder — Franklin suggested Schmidt was better served in the middle innings.
“(We need him) to bridge some things to the back of the bullpen,” he said. “Right now, Cox was our guy tonight. It could change tomorrow. Olbrychowski hasn’t pitched in that role all year, he’s been in the middle down there. The bullpen’s a little beat up. Pope’s a little overused. We’re short. So why not Coxie again tonight?”
According to Franklin, the difference in Cox’s game has been the use of his changeup.
” Since he’s been using his changeup, he’s been getting some very big outs,” he said. “It kind of neutralizes the left-handed bats. He’s always had his good slider and his good sinker, so the changeup has really been a good pitch for him.”
— Lance Berkman’s late game base hit to right field happened about 15 minutes after the Thunder game had ended. The puny television in the clubhouse was tuned to the game, and Berkman’s knock received a raucous reaction from his former teammates. Berkman was very, very well liked here in Trenton.
— New Hampshire lost, 2-1, to Harrisburg, to give Trenton a 1 1/2 game division lead with five games left to play. Anyone thinking the Thunder don’t care about which spot they’re in…well, think again.
“You definitely want to win (the division),” Christian said.
“You want to go into the playoffs winning games, you don’t want to drop a couple games and have to go into the playoffs because everybody starts pressing. To pull away a victory tonight is huge tonight going into tomorrow and finishing out the games in New Britain. It’s very important to win these last five remaining games. If we can pull out four our of five, that would be great.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com