That probably sums up the way this game went for the Thunder better than anything. Trenton lost to the Akron Aeros, 7-5, and are now on the brink of elimination after dropping both games at Canal Park. But this was a more frustrating loss than most.
Let’s start from the beginning…it wasn’t entirely evident at the get go that Shaeffer Hall didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but that wouldn’t really play out until later. The lefty retired the first two batters he faced in the first inning, but couldn’t get out of the first after a David Adams error at third base allowed Chun Chen to reach safely. Jesus Aguilar was the next batter, and he made Hall pay with a two-run shot to left field that gave the Aeros a quick 2-0 lead.
Trenton fought back — a common theme tonight — two innings late, however. Akron starter Danny Salazar shut down the Thunder in order the first two innings, but Tyler Austin hit a third-inning leadoff home run to cut the deficit to just one, despite a valiant effort from center fielder Tyler Holt, who fell hard to the warning track dirt on his backside after attempting to scale the wall.
And then the bottom of the third happened. Hall gave up the cycle in the Aeros half of the frame, as well as a walk, and it accounted for a five-spot on the board that seemed to put the game out of reach. The big blows came on Adam Abraham’s two-run triple and Ryan Rohlinger’s two-run homer.
Salazar was more or less cruising after the Austin homer, and had two outs in the sixth when he ran into trouble for the first time. Ramon Flores and Adams stroked back-to-back singles, setting the stage for Zoilo Almonte. Almonte smashed a long home run off the metallic batters eye in center field, and just like that, Trenton had cut Akron’s lead in half, making it a 7-4 game.
Momentum was clearly on their side in the seventh, when Salazar didn’t answer the bell and Kyle Landis took over the game. J.R. Murphy began the inning with a single, and after a popout by Austin, Kevin Mahoney moved him over to third with a double that earned with a headfirst slide at second base.
And then madness unfolded.
That video that you see up top is the aftermath of what happened next. Rob Segedin singled up the middle to score Murphy, but Mahoney tried to score as well. He hesitated for a half step when Holt bobbled the ball, and kept chugging along. Holt threw the ball into Davis Stoneburner, who threw home…but the throw was a bit to the right of the plate. Roberto Perez caught the ball cleanly and applied the tag and Mahoney was called out, much to his displeasure.
At first look — the only one we got — it appeared that home plate umpire Tom Woodring got the call right. An Akron photographer got the shot of the play at the plate, and it seemed that Mahoney was blocked from touching the plate and was in fact out. But Mahoney vehemently disagreed with the call and got in Woodring’s face, leading to Thunder manager Tony Franklin to quickly run down the base line to both save his player and continue the argument, which eventually escalated into what you see above.
Trenton mustered only one hit in the eighth and were completely mystified by Preston Guilmet in the ninth, and now face the reality that their season could be over as early as Friday night’s Game 3.
And now, some quotes…
HOME PLATE UMPIRE TOM WOODRING
“I just had him going too far out. He never got his foot to the bag and he got blocked off the plate.”
(Woodring would not elaborate on anything related to the ejection)
“I’m pretty exhausted after that. I was pretty hot. I thought I had cause to be out there on that particular play because I thought that Mahoney had gotten in before the tag was applied. It was a close play, no question about it, but from my vantage point and where I’m standing — and I’m a long way away — but to me, it looked like he got his leg in there and the kid missed the tag or applied the tag late.”
“(Woodring) said he never got his foot in there. That I took exception to, because I do think he did. That’s basically what I told him.”
“(Mahoney) indicated to me that he did beat it, and for that reason…even without that reaction, I felt that he did beat the play, that’s why I was up there. But yeah, it did play into it. I felt he got in there and he certainly felt like he got in there as well.”
“Holt missed the ball, bobbled the ball. I originally slowed him, and he did what I asked him to do. When I saw him bobble the ball, we had an opportunity to get it going again, and I thought he made it. The umpire saw it a different way. But no, he did exactly what I asked him to do. It’s kind of hard sometimes to get them started again, but I took a shot at it and it didn’t work out for us.”
“(Hall) was up in the strike zone. Generally when he’s down with his fastball, he’s pretty doggone good. But he wasn’t as sharp as he normally is, but that’s going to happen. That’s going to happen to the best of pitchers. When you’re not sharp with your control and you’re not overpowering, you’re going to get hit and that’s what happened to Shaeffer.”
“He’s such a great guy. He works hard and he’s very passionate about what he does. He’s pitched great for us this year, and it’s kind of a disappointment to me for his season to end the way it has tonight. Shaeffer will bounce back, he’s probably more disappointed than anyone. But he’s a very resilient person and I think he understands how this goes; sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. But he’ll bounce back from this.”
“We haven’t had a lot of breaks in this series, and I told them that. A lot of times you just don’t get the breaks, and we haven’t had very many. But we’ve got three games remaining. This is winnable, this is doable. We just have to take it game by game, starting Friday. If we win that one, that puts us one closer. We’ll come back, we’ll be OK. I think tonight was an indication of what kind of team we are. We could have easily folded, but we didn’t. We battled like we’ve always done, and we made a heck of a game out of it.”
“It doesn’t matter to me what (Akron) did, I know what we’re capable of doing the same thing (winning three straight on the road like they did in the first round). They won their three, let’s see if we can win our three.”
“Seggy hit a (line drive), and I felt the shortstop could have made the play, so I made sure to go back first and not get doubled off. As soon as that ball went up the middle, I took off because they were playing real deep. I knew we were going to have a shot to possibly get home and Skip, waving, waving, sends me home. The guy bobbles it, so coming home I felt like the catcher was way too far away for me and he wasn’t going to make the play. When he caught it, he came at me high, so I went low and slid through the plate and as soon as I hit the plate, popped up and I’m sure Skip told you what he felt about it. All I can say is it’s a tough call from where he was at, I don’t think he was in the best position to make the call. He’s been real good all year, too. He hasn’t been bad at all for us. It’s disappointing that it happened now, frustrating that it happened now. That wasn’t the only play that we were frustrated with. We did everything we could to score the run, and just about everyone thought I was safe. The one that counted didn’t.”
“I had a half a step where I slowed down. I was full speed, and he was saying, ‘On the bag, on the bag,’ and I wasn’t to the bag yet, so I was still busting. I took half a step to start slowing down, and he said, ‘Go.’ And I took off. I barely broke stride, it was a split second if anything. Everyone can say that was the reason why I was a split second out, but it wasn’t. I had to run back first, he bobbled it, the guy made a good throw, and the cutoff guy made another good throw. It’s not like that split second was the initial key. It’s just frustrating.”
“I told (the umpire) I wasn’t sure what he saw, because when I popped up, I came up saying ‘safe’ because he tagged me up high, and he touched his chest and then called me out. My momentum carried me to him, I didn’t go after him or anything. My momentum carried me to him and when I stopped, I asked him…there’s no way, my foot hit the plate first. He said that I didn’t make it to the plate, and that’s where I pointed to the plate where I scratched the plate right down the middle. Then Skip was on top of him, and I just walked away because there’s no point for me to argue anymore because I told him what I thought.”
“Three game win streak is definitely within limits with this team. We were split right down the middle, so you know right away we’re going to get two. Everyone was hoping obviously to win two here or at least split, so today was a big game for us. Going down 0-2, it sucks, but we’re still confident. We have a team that’s battled through this type of ordeal before, and we know what it’s like to be down. We always fight and scrap and claw our way back like we did tonight.”
“From the results, I don’t think I can stand here and say I had my best stuff today. It wasn’t a very good performance on my part. Being down 0-1, I take a lot of pride in being that number one or number two starter in our rotation all year and going deep into games and having that pressure of being down 0-1 in the finals of the Eastern League and trying to get our team back on the winning track and trying to tie this series up. I take a lot of pride in it, and I wanted to do that for my team tonight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that done. But we have a lot of guys that have character on this team, and we were down 7-1 and we just kept chipping away and fighting back. We easily could have been down one run or even in a position to tie it. We have three games left in this series, and I’m not counting us out yet. That was a very bad performance on my part today, and I wish I could have given us a better chance to win. But unfortunately, this is something that I’m going to have to deal with for a long time in the off-season. But it’s going to make me stronger. I’m going to come back next year even stronger.”
“Inbetween these starts, I felt like I had good stuff and my pen and my short work, all that kind of stuff, I felt like I was very confident. My stuff was good and I felt like I had a pretty good chance today. That’s just baseball, I guess. I really don’t have an answer for it. I don’t go out there and try to do that. It’s going to be a tough one to swallow.”
“When I look at the overall season, I grade myself on a pretty good performance. I felt like I stayed consistent throughout the whole year. We were in a lot of close ballgames when I was pitching, and I went deep into games, which I take a lot of pride in. I racked up the innings. I felt like I had a really good season, it’s just to end it like this was very tough. I’m going to keep fighting with these guys, our season’s not over. We’ve got three more at home, and hopefully we can bounce back and pull this one out.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com