— The Thunder were going down one game to none in this series. It was going to happen. It was an out away from happening. A strike away from happening.
And then? Then, it didn’t happen.
After Pat Venditte coughed up two runs in the top of the 10th inning to put the Mets up, 5-3, Binghamton put All-Star closer Jeff Walters in the game to close it out. Strikeout by Mason Williams. Groundout by Ramon Flores. Nobody on, two out, and the best stopper in the league on the mound.
Game over, right? Nope.
Jose Pirela doubled to give the Thunder a small glimmer of hope. Then, Walters had Gary Sanchez down 0-2 after he swung and missed at his first two offerings. But Sanchez wouldn’t die. He fouled a pitch off, then took a very close offspeed pitch that just missed the plate. After fouling off another pitch, Sanchez singled through the middle to score Pirela and cut the deficit to just one.
Tyler Austin, who made some waves with a pre-game comment about how Binghamton starter Noah Syndergaard would be in for a long night, backed up his words one more time (albeit against Walters this time) with an infield single, and then Casey Stevenson tied the game 5-5 on a single to left. On the first pitch he saw, Ben Gamel then won the game with a line drive to right field.
Down 1-0? How about up 1-0 and they beat Binghamton’s ace to do it?
Below, find post-game comments from Thunder manager Tony Franklin, outfielder Tyler Austin and designated hitter Ben Gamel about the improbable victory.
“This is kind of what we’ve done all year and kind of what we’ve talked about all year, and that’s just to keep playing. No matter what the circumstances or where we are in the game, just keep playing. We’ve done that a couple times this last couple of weeks, and it’s worked out very well for us.”
“It’s part of the makeup of this team. If you go back to when we got here in April and everyone is asking me about what kind of team I think we have, I didn’t know. I know now. We don’t have a lot of the same guys, but I think the guys that we had established the team we were going to be, and we were going to grind it out no matter what. The guys who have joined us, they picked up right where the guys who are gone left off.”
“We’ll find out (what this type of win does) tomorrow. That’s when you find out, you hope that it’s going to carry over to tomorrow. It would have been a tough one to lose for us, the way things were turning out.”
“It’s tough to get runs off those guys, it’s tough to beat pitchers like Syndergaard and Walters. I’m not saying it’s any more special, but they’re the class of the league.”
“I was really just looking for something up, something I could handle. I put a good swing on it.”
“Two quick outs, then Petey hits a double, Tyler got a hit up the middle, Gary hits a line drive…it’s unreal. The heart and determination this team has, we all kind of feed off each other. Just like that, we’re back in it.”
“We put a lot of good at-bats together, and that’s what kept the momentum going. The pitchers kept us in the game, they never let it get out of reach.”
“I guess (the prediction came true). It’s a big win. And against him, he’s a great pitcher, and I’m not taking anything away from him or any of their staff. They’ve got a great team, great staff. But like I said (before the game), this team’s got heart. We came to play, and we gave it everything we had from the opening pitch to the last one of the game.”
“We just believe in one another, we believe in each guy that steps into the box and we believe in every guy we throw out there on the mound. That’s what we take out there. This is a great team, and I’m excited to see what the next few games have to hold.”
“That’s definitely big coming in here and getting the first game, especially at home and knowing that we potentially have to play three games at their place. It’s always big to come here and get Game 1 at home.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com