Walk-off Walk powers Thunder
TRENTON – After watching reliever Billy Bullock pitch the ninth inning against the Thunder yesterday, the initials BB seemed very fitting.
Bullock, who looked very good over the final two outs of the eighth, walked four batters – one intentionally – and in the process handed Trenton a 3-2 victory and a sweep of the New Britain Rock Cats at Waterfront Park.
“If we were going to do it, that’s the way we had to do it,” manager Tony Franklin said. “Fortunately we came through.”
As the manager alluded to, the Thunder weren’t doing much in the way of offense before the ninth. Against Kyle Gibson, New Britain’s starter and the Twins’ first-round pick in 2009, they collected just four hits, all singles, over the first six innings.
Yesterday was the second time Gibson handcuffed Trenton’s offense. He allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings when the teams met last month at New Britain Stadium.
Trenton’s starter D.J, Mitchell, however, nearly matched Gibson, and would have completed the task were it not for a costly miscue on the infield.
In the fifth, with Steve Singleton on first and one out, third baseman Brandon Laird muffed Tobias Streich’s grounder. The ball ricocheted off Laird’s glove and deep enough into left-center field that Singleton was able to advance to third.
A Mitchell wild pitch – one of three on the afternoon – and a Ben Revere triple shortly thereafter made it 2-0 New Britain, which, with the weak swings the Thunder taking against Gibson, looked like a mighty tall hill to climb.
Still, Mitchell kept his team in the game for two more innings before handing the ball to Cory Arbiso and Kevin Whelan for the eighth and ninth.
Since returning from the All-Star break, the Clemson-bred sinkerballer has been impressive. Over 20 innings, he’s allowed just six earned runs and has walked only one.
“Things are finally starting to click,” Mitchell said. “I’m just going to try to keep it up. Hopefully I’ll continue it throughout the rest of the year.”
The Rock Cats kept their slim edge until the ninth, when Bullock, who had gotten the last two outs of the eighth, began his attempt to shut down the heart of the Thunder’s order.
Austin Romine, who, with five hits in his last 12 at-bats, appears to be emerging from his slight funk of late, led off the ninth pushing a Bullock offering through the hole between first and second.
Laird followed with the first walk of the inning before Marcos Vechionacci’s double split the right-center field gap and brought Romine home. The Rock Cats then chose to issue an intentional walk to Matt Cusick to set up a possible double play.
Then Bullock lost whatever little command he might have had entering the ninth. He walked Edwar Gonzalez on four pitches to bring home the tying run. When he did the same to Luis Nunez, the game was over.
With the sweep, the Thunder stay hot entering today’s beginning of a four-game set with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, who trail Trenton by just 1 ½ games in the Eastern League East.
“This win today didn’t hurt us at all. A little momentum going into tomorrow doesn’t hurt us at all,” Franklin said.