— There were no ridiculous celebrations in the Trenton Thunder clubhouse tonight. No champagne bottles getting popped, no bad dancing, no awkward high fives. They merely acted like they’d been there before.
Because they have.
Tonight was the Thunder’s 117th game of the season, and they’ve now finished the night at least tied for a playoff position after 66 of them. This team has shown that, at times, they can be one of the top teams in the Eastern League. But what are they now? Is this a good team that went through a rough patch? Underachievers that fooled everyone in May and June?
25 games from now, as Dennis Green says, we’ll see if they are who we thought they were…whatever you think they are. Rob Lyerly, who led the Thunder with three hits tonight, is pretty pleased with what he thinks the Thunder are right now.
“We know we’re good, and we think we can play well,” he said.
“We have a lot of confidence, and we think we’ll do well as we keep going.”
With the win and Reading’s loss, Trenton is now even with the Phillies for the second and final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. With a road trip to Harrisburg and Erie ahead, Lyerly knows what the team has to do to keep things going.
“We just have to try to have the same night we had tonight,” he said.
“Make plays, make pitches and drive in runs. A lot of guys tonight drove in some big runs. We have to keep doing that.”
— I would never suggest that the Thunder weren’t hustling before, mainly because I don’t believe that to be true. This was never an effort thing, the losing streak. But to say I didn’t notice extra hustle tonight? That would be wrong. I did. Jose Pirela, who I’m often critical of, actually deserves a lot of praise. He sprinted down the basepaths every time tonight, including his double, in which he’d have been easily safe if he just jogged from first to second. Others showed extra enthusiasm as well.
Sometimes, you notice things that you actually don’t notice in the press box, if that makes any sense. Something you thought you saw, you really didn’t. But, as it turns out, my hunch about the hustle was spot on.
“I told them that if they didn’t hustle, I was going to take them out, plain and simple,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.
“I think that’s just as big a part of losing the ballgames, whether it be via errors, poor pitching, walks, misplays…it’s all encompassing. When things are going bad, tiny things are very easy to pick out and hone in on, and that was just one of them. So I made a mention of it. We need to do just about everything well, and if we’re not getting the kind of play that we need, I’m going to take you out of the game. That’s where we are right now. I don’t want to threaten anyone, but I wanted them to be aware of the fact that I’m watching them and their play and it’s not good. We’re better than that, that’s the message. But yes, you’re right, there was some pep in their step.”
— Hey! Trenton went a full nine innings without making an error. Start that slow clap now. Franklin sure was pleased about his team’s defensive performance, and for good reason.
“It was great, that’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” he said.
“It’s supposed to be a clean game. We talked about it earlier today, when the game is clean; you don’t make mistakes and you don’t give them opportunities to have extra at-bats, you’ve got a shot. And we did ourselves well tonight, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.”
— Wilkins Arias was promoted to Scranton. He first joined the Thunder midway through the 2008 season and has literally been here ever since. The 30-year-old lefty has made 138 appearances in a Trenton uniform, including 22 this year. Arias, who is 30 years old, will be enjoying his first official trip to Scranton. Despite missing a month and a half due to an injury this season, the lefty put together a solid season: 3-0, 2.30 ERA, 1 SV in 27.1 IP. He walked nine and struck out 30, and held the league to just a .163 average against.
Ray Kruml’s activation off the DL tomorrow will likely be the corresponding move for Arias, although that is not yet official.
— Best of luck to Marty Teller, whose last day with the Thunder was tonight. I got to know Marty a little bit over the past few years, and he’s a fantastic guy. He’ll be missed at Waterfront Park, and I wish him the best in the future.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com