— Perhaps Fisher Cats reliever Trystan Magnuson should stop throwing Rene Rivera fastballs. For the second time in as many nights, Trenton’s backup catcher smashed a home run off of Magnuson on that pitch. Last night, it gave the Thunder a much-needed insurance run for their 2-0 win. Tonight, it led to a 12th inning walk-off victory.
“I’m looking for a pitch out over the plate that I can drive,” Rivera said.
“I got lucky both times, yesterday and today. I saw a pitch I could handle and I swung. I always wait for the fastball, no matter what the situation is or the count. No matter what inning I’m always looking for a fastball, because that’s the best pitch to hit. In that situation, I just wanted to get a base hit and get a rally going. I wasn’t thinking about a homer.”
— Rivera’s homer, of course, came after an unfortunate turn of events for the Fisher Cats. Adam Calderon led off the inning with a single off of Wilkins Arias, who was removed from the game in favor of Josh Schmidt. Schmidt struck out Matt Liuzza, but walked Adam Loewen to put runners on first and second with one out. Pinch hitter Ricardo Nanita grounded out and moved the runners over and set the stage for Darin Mastroianni.
New Hampshire’s speedy leadoff man hit a weak ground ball to second baseman Matt Cusick, who charged the ball and sidearmed it to first…to the naked eye — and this was the consensus in the press box –Mastroianni was safe. First base umpire Chris Hamner, however, ruled otherwise. The run did not score, and the inning was over
Mastroianni jumped up and down and threw his helmet down in disgust. Fisher Cats manager Luis Rivera sprinted across the field to confront Hamner. He vehemently argued the call, spiked his coaches helmet as well, and was quickly ejected and needed to be held back for a bit before calmly leaving the field.
Following the game, as Trenton players were at the plate celebrating the win, another New Hampshire coach got in Hamner’s face as the umpires were leaving the field.
Looking at a sequence of photos taken by MILB.com photographer Kevin Littlefield, there is conclusive evidence that Mastroianni was, in fact, safe.
“I was watching Luis run across, and he was flying,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin. “I probably would have done the same thing.”
“I feel for them, but not that much.”
— Don’t worry Thunder fans, Adam Warren wasn’t offended by the mass exodus that took place at Waterfront Park after Andy Pettitte left.
“I was kind of like, ‘Where are you going,'” said Warren with a laugh.
“But no, we gave them a good game, the ones that stuck around. They were loud and we all appreciate that. It was really fun game and a really fun atmosphere for us.”
Anyone who left early missed a hell of a performance from the 23-year-old staff ace. He pitched six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and walking two. He struck out ten. Coming out of the bullpen appeared to be no big deal for the cool as a cucumber hurler.
“I had to kind of lock in mentally and try to keep everything the same,” he said.
“My body, it was kind of funny in the bullpen, it didn’t feel as loose as usual because I didn’t have a chance to run around as much. But I started locking in in the bullpen, and once I got in the game and got a little bit of adrenaline running, it was all the same.”
Warren who had hoped to see Andy Pettitte’s start, missed the first inning, but did get to see some of it.
“The second inning, I came out and just soaked it in a little bit and watched him pitch,” he said.
“After that, I went to the bullpen and got to watch a little bit while I was warming up. It was a lot of fun to watch a veteran throw like that and get outs.”
— Austin Romine only needed one word to describe the outing of Andy Pettitte: Unbelievable.
The Yankees prospect was absolutely glowing after the game when discussing getting to catch Pettitte for four innings.
“That was some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Nothing was straight. He commanded everything. It was unbelievable, it was an honor to catch him.”
Romine had worked a bit with Pettitte in spring training, but when asked if that helped him tonight…
“Yes and no,” he said.
“I kind of knew what to expect, and then I was just blown away. It was just really fun. You could tell from the first pitch of the game…he threw a cutter and I missed it, because I was like whoa…I’ve never seen balls cut like that.”
As for Romine himself, he’s been behind the plate for all 21 innings in which Thunder pitching has shut out the potent Fisher Cats lineup. I asked Romine how much credit he deserves for that.
“I don’t want any of it,” he said.
“I suggest pitches, I didn’t do anything. I suggest pitches, they throw it. They did their job.”
— I asked Franklin after the game if, when he thought about the series was going to go, he expected to be up 2-0 going into New Hampshire.
“Honestly, I thought if we won the first one, we’d have a good chance to be right there,” he said.
“I do believe in my team, I believe in the guys out there. I know that we pitch pretty good and we’re going to be in some games. Scoring, that’s another thing. But pitching, I know that if we pitched well, we were going to have a chance. Getting the first one, that was big for us. Getting the second one, that’s pretty good too.”
Romine was asked the same question as well.
“I did. I know that sounds like, ‘Oh, he’s just saying that,’ but I really did,” he said.
“I really knew we were going to beat Drabek because everybody was sitting here telling us we weren’t. That’s the type of team we are. We’re a bunch of underdogs. There’s nobody on this team hitting .330. We’ve got a bunch of scrappers in there.”
— LHP Steve Garrison, claimed off of waivers by the Yankees from the Padres, is expected to join Trenton. The Trentonian’s Josh Norris spoke with Garrison, and he expects to join the club on Sunday.
— Garrison takes the spot of Wilkin De La Rosa, who was taken off the 40-man roster prior to the game. De La Rosa was spotted leaving by fans outside the ballpark before the start of batting practice. Given that he’s lost two members of his bullpen in the past 24 hours, pitching coach Tommy Phelps didn’t seem too thrilled.
“It hurts, obviously,” he said.
“Coxie’s one of our veteran guys who came in late in the game for us, and De La’s been one of our long guys. But, we’re getting another pitcher and hopefully we can get somebody else to fill in and help us out down there.”
— Ah yes, J.B. Cox. It seems like just hours ago that his suspension for the remainder of the season was the big story. Well…probably because it was. I promise the rest of my writing will be about guys who actually had the professionalism to stick with their team for the rest of the season, but I’m not doing my job if I don’t pass along comments from Franklin that he made before the game.
“He was disappointed that he came out of the game,” Franklin said.
“Some words were exchanged, and I took exception with what he said to me. I didn’t think it was very professional. He took exception to what I said. We felt like the best thing to do was to suspend him.”
Franklin was disappointed that Cox’s tenure with the club ended the way it did.
“I wish him well,” he said. “If his career has ended with the Yankees, I’d hate for it to end on this note.”
— Was reading Kevin Gray’s Thursday story. You should too. Two things stood out to me…
“One Fisher Cat scoffed at the idea of Pettitte throwing for Trenton, saying it’s a “shameless” move to help win the Eastern League title…”
What’s worse? Having one guy come down for a playoff game — which, oh by the way, New Hampshire is doing tomorrow with Scott Richmond, who had 19 big league decisions last year — or “shamelessly” keeping players who have nothing left to prove at their current level in Double-A so the Blue Jays can attempt to claim a minor league title? Whatever player said that needs to look around his own clubhouse…
And then there was this…
“I don’t even know if (Pettitte) will be the guy with the best stuff among the two starters,” Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore said.
With all due respect to Signore and Zach Stewart, who was absolutely excellent for New Hampshire, that’s a pretty foolish statement to make. Stewart will be a very good big leaguer one day…but to favorably compare him to Pettitte just seems silly.
— Real quick…anyone who knows me knows I rarely pass up an opportunity to complain. Nothing to complain about tonight though. The Thunder front office did a marvelous job in handling the Pettitte rehab. It wasn’t — and Rachel Wolf will appreciate this — a farce.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com