Andy Pettitte to open up ELCS for Thunder
TRENTON — Just like the Thunder, the Altoona Curve won their division and made quick work of their division series opponent. They did so with an unexpected — based on their season-long output — burst of power.
They hit just 80 home runs during the 142-game regular season, but clubbed eight during the four first-round games with Harrisburg. Lineup mainstays Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud hit two apiece after hitting just four and six, respectively, during the year.
Similarly, Trenton got some extra thunder from an unexpected source: Division series MVP Rene Rivera, who homered in each game against New Hampshire, including two game-winners.
And then there’s the unexpected boost to the Thunder rotation, which came in the form of Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte pitched four shutout innings in Trenton’s Game 2 win in last week’s division series, and gets the ball tonight in Game 1 as he makes what should be his final rehab appearance before rejoining the Bombers.
Aside from Rivera’s shot,the only Thunder longball came from Damon Sublett in Game 3, his first blast since April 15.
The real key for Trenton, however, will be how it fares against the four lefties Altoona has set up. Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson and Tony Watson, southpaws all, are the Curve’s first four starters.
The only time the Thunder could potentially see a right-hander would be in the decisive fifth game, when Altoona will send Jared Hughes to the hill against either Cory Arbiso or Manny Banuelos.
Given their relatively pedestrian offensive output all year — outside of Brandon Laird — the Thunder have performed surprisingly well against left-handers. The current roster has a .264 average with on-base and slugging percentages of .350 and .434, respectively.
Trenton has also gone deep 40 times against lefties, including six from Marcos Vechionacci, four each from Austin Romine and Luis Nunez and three apiece from Austin Krum and Dan Brewer. That quintet connected on 44 home runs this season, 20 of which came off of southpaws.
It’s pretty unusual to see a team able to spin four lefties in its rotation, and it’s even more unusual to see a team do so well against them.
Another plus for the Curve comes from the back end of its bullpen, where the Thunder will find Daniel Moskos -- one of the league’s best closers – waiting for them in the late innings.
Moskos, most famous for being the player the Pirates chose instead of Matt Wieters in 2007, has quietly put together an excellent season out of the Curve’s bullpen, and in the process has re-grown his stock to near pre-draft levels.
Although he got bombed in Triple-A, with Altoona he was nearly unhittable in the ninth inning. Moskos saved 21 games with the Curve, and allowed just 18 hits and struck out 27 during the ninth inning of ballgames.
What the Thunder do have on their side, however, is momentum and confidence. When they dismantled New Hampshire, they captured their white whale and gave themselves a huge injection of confidence for the championship round.
That, plus their yearlong mashing of left-handers, is what should give them the overall edge in this series. I think the Thunder will win it, and they’ll do it in five games.
Labels: Trenton Thunder