— Another tight, relatively well-played game in this series tonight…that’s how a lot of the players thought this series would go, and Game 3 didn’t disappoint. The Thunder won, 3-1, but it sure wasn’t easy.
Reading starter Ethan Martin was absolutely outstanding, and struck out 11 Thunder batters through his first seven innings. But perhaps sending him out for the eighth was a mistake. Already at 99 pitches, Martin allowed a leadoff single to Tyler Austin, who was then bunted over to second by Walter Ibarra.
The next batter, Adonis Garcia, hit a hard ground ball to Phillies third baseman Cody Asche…Austin broke way too far off of second base and should have been out…but Asche bobbled the ball, allowing Austin to retreat to second and Garcia to safely reach first. Ramon Flores moved Austin to third on a deep fly ball to center, which set the stage for David Adams.
Adams stroked a single through the right side to score Austin and knock Martin out of the game after a whopping 113 pitches. Tyler Knigge came in to relieve Martin, and promptly gave up a single back up the box to Zoilo Almonte to give the Thunder an insurance run. Mark Montgomery came in to close it out, and after walking the leadoff man, he struck out two of the three subsequent batters he faced to shut the door on the Phillies and put Trenton up two games to one in a pivotal third game.
— There were, of course, a few key moments in this one. Trenton got up to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first…Almonte doubled home Flores with two outs. The next batter, Addison Maruszak, hit a soft infield single up the middle that was corralled by shortstop Troy Hanzawa. Almonte was running hard from second and rounded third as Hanzawa threw home. Almonte retreated to the bag as catcher Tommy Joseph threw to third, but was out and ended the inning as the last out at third base.
Just as was the case last night, when Cody Asche getting thrown out at third base essentially squashed what could have been a big inning for the Reading Phillies, this seemed to be a possible turning point for the Thunder early on tonight.
— Mikey O’Brien was quite good tonight, although he pitched just five innings. He retired the first two men he faced in the third, but ran into the only trouble he’d encounter all night afterwards. O’Brien walked Tyson Gillies, and then gave up a double to Asche…the speedy Gillies scored from first, and the game was tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the eighth.
— The top of the eighth, however…that was the real turning point of this one. After Tom Kahnle came in and did quite well for himself in the sixth and the seventh, Lee Hyde was brought in to start the eighth inning to face two lefties; Gillies and Asche. Hyde struck out Gillies, but allowed a double to Asche, which opened a base for Darin Ruf. Remember him? He kind of had a big August. Player of the month, MVP…that guy? Yeah, so Hyde intentionally walked Ruf but stayed on to face lefty cleanup hitter Tug Hulett.
And then some magic happened. Hyde used the best pickoff move I’ve ever seen, an exceptionally quick snap throw that caught Ruf off guard, which ended with him being out by a few feet. Hulett then grounded out to end the inning, and keep the game tied, 1-1.
— Quick note for tomorrow…David Aardsma will pitch, but is unlikely to start. He’s still slated to pitch one inning, it’ll just be in relief. Nik Turley starts.
— And now the quotes…we spoke to Tony Franklin, Tyler Austin, David Adams and Lee Hyde…should be some stuff coming up from Mikey O’Brien too.
“All the wins this time of year are going to be tight. All games that we play are going to be closely contested, and it’s going to come down to the wire. This is playoff baseball at its best. It’s even more intense when you get to the big league level, but this is what this level is designed to do. It’s supposed to teach them how to play in an atmosphere such as this, and it’s not easy to do. They make it look easy, but it’s not easy…”
“Man, (Martin) looked pretty strong to me, I don’t know what you call running out of gas, but I thought his tank was pretty full. I don’t think he used much gas, he was pretty strong all game. He spotted up his pitches pretty well tonight, and of course he’s got pretty good stuff. (Thunder hitting coach Tom Slater) told me, ‘This guy’s tough tonight,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, it going to be tough to score some runs on him.'”
“(Re: Adams hit The guys who have the spotlight on them and come with all the credentials, they’re supposed to do that. That was one heck of an at-bat. The first few at-bats he had tonight, he didn’t come through with a hit…to come through with a hit there against the pitcher they had and the type of pitches he was throwing and the placement of where he hit the ball, you couldn’t have asked for anything better. I thought the ball was away from him a little bit, and David’s very efficient in hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”
“The pickoff play was about as huge as it gets right there. We didn’t pitch to Ruf and then we end up picking him off, and then we face Hulett for the third out. That inning was huge for us, and the error on the other side was equally as huge.”
“(The call for the pickoff comes from) either the first baseman or the pitcher, and I just talked to Tyler and I think that Lee put it on. We don’t generally run the play that way, we hadn’t. But we were working on pickoff plays one particular day and because Lee has his step off move, Murton thought that the play would work in that fashion. So we put it in that night, picked the guy off and this is the second time we used it. Tyler just got here with us, and Lee talked to him about it…that’s what guys who are thinking about situations do. Lee’s in the ballgame in the seventh, eighth, ninth inning against the lefties and here it comes up, and that’s what it’s supposed to be about. Guys are always thinking.”
“What happened (with Almonte) was I held him up. It wasn’t any fault of his, he was running hard to score. I had to wait to see if Hanzawa’s going to catch that ball. By the time he gets to the base, Hanzawa catches it and he’s got so much steam going that it’s hard to stop. The grass is wet and so he slipped, actually. He just couldn’t get back, he made a heck of an effort to get back. If he hadn’t slipped, I think he would have made it back easily.”
“We talked about (the pickoff play) before the game and made sure we were both on the same page with it if that situation came up. It did, and it worked out in our favor. It’s a great pickoff move. As soon as we got back in the dugout, I told him, ‘That’s the one of the better moves I’ve ever been a part of.’ It was unreal. As soon as I was breaking, I knew Ruf was going to be out.”
“I felt great, I had a lot of fun out there. We came up big with the W tonight. (In the eighth), he started me off with a fastball, ball one. Then he hung a slider a little bit and I put a good swing on it and got a base hit.”
“(Martin)’s really good. Honestly, he commands his fastball really well and throws his breaking pitches for a strike. I thought he was a really good pitcher. Everything he has is good, and he can throw them all for strikes. He probably is up for the better guys I’ve faced this year.”
“After the last few games and those first few at-bats, I was just going up there battling. I got down 1-2 or whatever it is, and that point I was just thinking ‘put the ball in play.’ Fortunately, I did that. It wasn’t the hardest hit, but I hit it in the right spot and sometimes that’s all you’ve got to do in this game.”
“That’s third time we faced (Martin) this year, and the first couple times I didn’t think he was as good as he was tonight. Tonight, I thought he was lights out. I’m not going to lie, he was spotting up fastballs in and out, he was throwing the slider for strikes, the curveball when he wanted to. He did a great job, and I think we have to tip our hats to him.”
“A couple of the guys told me that last pitch was supposed to be in, and I think he just missed away. He didn’t miss much tonight, that’s for sure.”
“Especially with Reading, I mean their starters have gone (deep) and given up less than five hits, that’s something where you’ve got to go up there and you’ve got to battle. You don’t get too many pitches to hit, and when you get a pitch to hit, you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
“All the credit goes to Luke Murton. We were doing PFP’s; pickoffs and rundowns and stuff before one of the games probably two months ago. I have the snap throw, I’ve picked off a couple guys with it early in the season. Usually the back pick to first base with lefties, the first baseman breaks off with me lifting my leg or whatever, but Murton came up with an idea of trying to sneak in behind him and then me do the snap throw. It was a good spot for it, and it worked out for us. It was a pretty big out.”
“It was huge. Asche legging out that double was big, and then to put Ruf on, I knew that was probably my last hitter with Hulett being the lefty there. For me being able to get him without throwing a pitch and get out of the inning with the lefty, that was huge.”
“I think Rob Segedin talked to (Austin) during BP, and after BP when I found out he was playing first, I came in and said if the situation comes up and we get a chance to do it, let’s try to run the play. If we can steal an out, we’ll take one.”
“I’m one of the old guys here, I’ve been around the game for a while. I’ve been in a lot of situations, but it’s just baseball. When I get out there, I just try to stay focused and stay in competitive mode and not worry about what the situation is and whether it’s Game 1 (and so on), I just try to stay with the same mindset.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com