— This was a game that a lot of people thought the Thunder would win. It was a game they needed to win. And through the first few innings, it looked like they had a pretty good chance of doing just that.
Ramon Flores’ fourth inning home run put Trenton up, 2-0, which seemed like a good enough cushion for Brett Marshall, who led the Eastern League in wins and was the runner-up for its pitcher of the year honors. Marshall held Reading without a hit for four innings, but that all changed on one swing of the bat when Jake Fox led off the fifth with a long solo home run to left field to cut the deficit to 2-1.
A Tug Hulett single, Leandro Castro double and Jiwan James RBI groundout later, and things were tied 2-2 heading into the sixth.
Pitching into the seventh inning for the first time since July 20, Marshall gave up back-to-back solo home runs to Tommy Joseph and Castro to lead off the inning, and those turned out to be the winning runs in Reading’s 4-2 win over Trenton in Game 1 of the Division Series.
“I don’t think things got away (from Marshall), he left a couple pitches that got up in the zone,” said Thunder manager Tony Franklin.
“When you get pitches that are up in the zone and they’re hit well, they’re going, and that’s basically what happened. Up until that time, I think he pitched a very good ballgame. It just happens like that sometimes.”
With Marshall’s big troubles coming in the seventh inning, it was reasonable to ask Franklin if he took Marshall’s relative inexperience going deeper into games this season into consideration before sending him out for the seventh in a 2-2 game.
“We felt very comfortable with him going back out there,” Franklin said. “His pitch count was very good, and I thought he was in command of the game. Right after he gave up those two home runs, he came right back and got three outs and was down in the strike zone.”
For his part, Marshall said he felt great and that he was throwing the ball well. He said he just missed his location on two sliders, and Castro tomahawked a fastball off of him…but also conceded that he may starting to run out of gas at such a late stage of the season.
“I have my tired innings, where I’m like, ‘Oh man, my arm is hanging right now,'” Marshall said. “But other than that, it’s all mentality…like hey, I’ve got to find a way to get through this. Towards the sixth inning, my arm kind of started hanging, but I went out for the seventh and felt good.”
— No lineup changes tomorrow, according to Franklin. That means Tyler Austin sits for a second straight day.
— Despite being down 1-0 going into tomorrow’s Game 2, the confidence remains in the Thunder clubhouse. Just ask Marshall.
“Reading is a good team, but I think we’ve got a better hitting team, a better defensive team and we’re better all-around,” he said. “Our pitching’s doing really well, and especially with the guys that got called up, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com