— Brett Marshall was really good on Tuesday night. But Gerrit Cole was a little bit better.
The Marshall-Cole matchup was everything you could have hoped for, with the two stars matching each other pitch-for-pitch in, at least on paper, what could very well have been the best duel in years at Waterfront Park.
“I knew that Gerrit Cole was pitching, and we go way back because we were in the same draft class,” Marshall said.
“He went first round. I kind of wanted to see him, I hadn’t seen him throw yet. I thought it was going to be a pretty good matchup tonight, and it was. I guess you could see that it was, it came down to the wire. I’m glad we pulled out the victory.”
A Zoilo Almonte game-tying home run and J.R. Murphy sacrifice fly — both in the seventh inning — put the Thunder on top, but the story was clearly the starters.
Both pitchers went six innings — I’ll get to why Marshall did in a little bit — and the only blemish on either’s line was an Oscar Tejeda home run in the second inning and that put the Curve on top, 1-0.
“I made one bad pitch there in the second inning, and I told myself I can’t do that again,” Marshall said. “It was a sinker that ran into his bat and over the wall.”
Cole was outstanding, and looked much better than he did in his last start in Reading. He touched 100 miles per hour on the radar gun five separate times, but more impressively so, he did it later in his outing. He allowed just three hits, walked just one and struck out six, needing just 82 pitches to do so (53 strikes).
“He was tough tonight,” said Thunder catcher J.R. Murphy. “Any time someone’s throwing that hard in the zone and locating with three pitches, it’s going to be tough. Personally, I saw a bunch of heaters and one slider, and the one slider was really good. Other than that, he’s so tough because he’ll throw in the mid-90’s to get to two strikes and then he’ll hump up to the upper 90’s when he needs to. He’s tough.”
Marshall, meanwhile, breezed through his outing in just 72 pitches, so it was a bit of a surprise that he came out so early. After a career-high 140 1/3 innings last year, Marshall now sits at 124 with a half dozen or so starts remaining plus the postseason. So, even after having been shut down for a start, he’ll be limited for the rest of the season.
“I don’t know what my max is this year, but I know it’s getting close,” he said. “They’re not going to shut me down, I’ll have five or six (inning starts), maybe go seven one more time. I’m just going out there throwing and not thinking about that.”
Added Thunder manager Tony Franklin: “We’re monitoring his pitch count, we always do. That’s nothing new. Arms, at the end of the year, the amount of innings and amount of pitches at the end of the year is going to always be an issue. Not just with us, with everyone. So you take a good, hard look at when it’s time to get them out of the game.”
Marshall came out of the game having allowed just four hits and the one run while walking three and striking out four, and he lowered his ERA to a sporty 2.84, which puts him third in the Eastern League in that category.
“Marshall was Marshall,” Murphy said. “He had three pitches that were all working tonight, like he has been the past few starts. His fastball is never straight, it either cuts or sinks. And it’s really hard on hitters, especially when he’s throwing that changeup and slider for strikes whenever he wants to. He was really tough tonight.”
— Kudos to the Thunder for doing the right thing and announcing to the crowd prior to the first pitch that Joba Chamberlain had been recalled by New York and wouldn’t be pitching tonight.
— The win tonight upped Trenton’s record to 65-44, which puts them 21 games over .500. While I vastly underestimated them at the beginning of the year, I don’t think anyone had them being THIS good.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com