— If you weren’t at Waterfront Park on Friday night, you missed a hell of a ballgame. The Thunder won, 11-7, to extend the series to Game 4 on Saturday, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the twists and turns that played out in this one.For the second straight night, the Thunder received a poor performance from their starting pitcher, this time Mikey O’Brien. O’Brien, who had pitched particularly well down the stretch after a so-so middle of the season, allowed a leadoff single to Jordan Henry, who was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Holt. Then, with Chun Chen up, O’Brien uncorked a wild pitch that advanced Henry to third, which was followed by a Chen single to right that scored Henry and put the Thunder in an early 1-0 hole.
Zoilo Almonte mishandled the ball in right field and allowed Chen to advance to second, but it wouldn’t cost the Thunder. The curveball that rehabbing Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco hung to Almonte in the bottom half of the inning certainly cost the Aeros, however.
Carrasco, who has not thrown a big league pitch since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September of 2011, was scheduled to throw two innings for Akron tonight, but the first one certainly did not go as he planned. The first four batters he faced reached safely, capped by a David Adams RBI single and three-run blast to left by Almonte that gave the Thunder a 4-1 lead. It didn’t last.
Adam Abraham hit a leadoff home run off of O’Brien in the second inning, but it was the third where the Aeros did the most damage. Much like Carrasco did in the first, O’Brien let the first four men he faced in the third reach safely, which led to a quick hook by manager Tony Franklin.
Three straight singles loaded the bases for Jesus Aguilar, but they were quickly unloaded without even so much as a swing of the bat when O’Brien issued another wild pitch, bringing Akron to within one. Aguilar then doubled to score the other two, and just like that, Akron was back on top, 5-4. That didn’t last either.
Akron tacked on two runs off of reliever Graham Stoneburner in the fifth to make it a 7-4 game, but the Thunder came back with four runs of their own in the bottom half. After Aeros reliever T.J. House — typically a starter, but forced to a relief appearance by Carrasco’s outing — retired the first two men he faced, Adonis Garcia started the rally with a single to center field, which was followed by a Ramon Flores walk and Adams HBP, which loaded the bases for Almonte. Almonte delivered once again, singling up the middle to score two runs and cut the deficit to just one. Addison Maruszak followed that up with a two-run double, and the Thunder had miraculously regained the lead.
This time, it stuck. But it wasn’t uneventful.
Tom Kahnle came in to pitch the sixth inning for Trenton after three frames for Stoneburner and walked the bases loaded before getting yanked by Franklin in favor of Branden Pinder. Pinder, faced with a bases loaded, no-out scenario, masterfully escaped without damage. Facing Akron’s 2-3-4 hitters, Pinder struck out Tyler Holt, induced a pop-out from Chen and whiffed Aguilar to keep the Thunder on top, 8-7.
Trenton tacked on a run each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and cruised to an 11-7 victory to get the series to Game 4 on Saturday. Nik Turley is scheduled to start for the Thunder.
“I felt good. I just try to throw everything for strikes. I didn’t make bad pitches. The curveball for the home run, the guy had a lot of power and he got it. I have nothing to say about that. I just
“I tried to throw a back door curveball and I think it was a hanger around the middle a little bit up. He got it.”
“I think I feel comfortable in the first inning, relaxed. I tried to get my delivery (consistent) and everything. In this kind of game, everybody is (looking) first pitch on everything. (Second inning) I
came in and threw a little more hard and consistent with my fastball and my breaking pitches. In the first inning, I felt like I was more down and looking for the zone.”
“Right now, I feel different after two innings. I think it’s a good sign for me, I felt good in my second inning. Everything’s good.”
“That was really a nice game. It’s great that we came out on top, but it was a good game. I enjoyed watching it, we played well. We got off to a great start, gave the lead up, and then had the ability come back. This is what we do, we’re going to go out there and grind away and see where we are at the end of the night.”
“(Pinder) has been very good for us when he’s come in. He’s given us a pretty good lift. We had the same thing with Aardsma the other night in Akron with the bases loaded and no outs, and Pinder comes in and does it again. Those are huge outs for us right there, the game could have gone the other way. He’s been absolutely fantastic.”
“It just kind of turns out that (Pinder) was the guy who was up and ready to come into the game. He’s certainly making a bid to be that guy (who gets us out of jams) as time goes by. He’s been pretty doggone good.”
“We use everybody (in the bullpen going forward). We use everybody we have to use, that’s the way it is right now. You go to the guys you feel are going to get the outs for you, but everyone’s available. I don’t think we’d throw the starters, we’ve got enough bullpen to handle it. Before this series is over, there’s a good chance that everybody’s going to be in there.”
“I’ve seen that quite a bit this year, (Zoilo) can look bad sometimes but he’ll come right back in that same at-bat and punch one out of here. An opposite field home run like that, I was saying, ‘My goodness, that ball is going out.’ When it left the bat, I didn’t think it was. But about halfway out there, I thought it was going to go. And it did. He’s strong.”
“(There’s) no room for error, that’s for sure. I’ve just got to go in there and throw strikes and try and get outs. Murphy told me not to strike everyone out. In that situation, you kind of have to.”
“I’m used to (pressure). That’s when I want to be in. If that’s what they want me to do, I’m going to do it.”
“(Aguilar) I knew it was foul. 2-0 fastball. He knew it was coming. After that, he was done, so.”
“Definitely, the momentum switched after that (sixth inning). We score a couple of runs, then 8 and 9, Monty, Pope.”
“It’s fun, especially moving up levels. You just have to get ahead, throw strikes and put ‘em away. I’m not too emotional when I’m out there. I have to keep my composure when I’m on the mound. I can’t have that bad body language.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com