Thunder edge Cats, take Game 1
TRENTON – Hey, Andy Pettitte, top that.
Behind 5 1/3 innings of ferocious fireballs from Dellin Betances, the Thunder bucked the odds against the league’s Pitcher of the Year and took Game 1 of the Eastern League Division Series from the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 2-0, in one of the more electric games in recent memory.
Betances, a native New Yorker with a massive cheering section whooping at nearly every pitch, held the league’s most explosive offense to just two hits and a walk before he yielded the stage in the sixth inning.
The Thunder’s starter said afterward that knowing it was Drabek opposing him gave him the extra juice he needed in the biggest game of his career.
“I knew Drabek was going to come in, and he’s been pitching well all year,” he said. “He won Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, so I knew it was going to be a tough one. I just had to keep trying to put up zeroes and give my team a chance.”
Using well-spotted gas that topped out at 95 miles per hour, plus a spine-melting array of breaking and offspeed pitches, that’s exactly what he did.
As outstanding as his line was on its own, it was the extra notch he found time and time again that was truly impressive. Betances stranded five runners in scoring position, all with less than two outs.
“I just tried to make quality pitches,” he said. “I know I got myself in one of those myself, so I just tried to make some good pitches. Whatever Romine was calling I was going with, so it was good to have him behind me.”
As excellent as Betances was all night long, Kyle Drabek, the Fisher Cats’ ace and inarguably the league’s top hurler, was damn near his equal from his first pitch to his last.
The one problem he had early, however, was getting behind hitters. And although he was perfect through the first three frames, in the fourth inning his early misses wound up costing him.
Austin Krum drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the frame, and was pushed to second on Justin Snyder’s groundout. Krum followed with a steal of third before scoring on Dan Brewer’s line single over shortstop.
Snyder, who was 1-for-4 with a double, made play after play at third base behind Betances. His biggest moment came with runners on the corners in the ninth, when he turned Darin Mastroianni’s hot smash to third into a game-ending double play.
“I was just trying to field my position like I should,” Snyder said. “Some of those plays were a little tougher than I would like, they’re not routine ground balls or anything. It’s just getting out of jams and picking up Dellin. He got himself in and out of situations tonight. Coming in and beating them first game is pretty clutch.”
Not only was it clutch, but it bodes particularly well for the rest of the series. The Thunder have won the first game of their last six postseason series, and have taken the set in the last four.
History aside, what matters tonight is that they topped huge odds and took down Drabek, something they hadn’t done in their previous five tries, and gave themselves huge momentum for tonight, when Pettitte and Adam Warren will try put them in position for a sweep Friday in New Hampshire.
“The first game at home here against Drabek, and the manner in which we got it,” manager Tony Franklin said, “that’s outstanding,”
NOTES: Second baseman Corban Joseph, on the disabled list with a wrist problem, saw a doctor yesterday and wasn’t in the clubhouse before the game. … After being removed in the eighth inning, reliever J.B. Cox got into an argument with Franklin and chest-bumped the manager during the proceedings. … The 2,860 who came to the game last night represented a season-low. … When Josh Schmidt came in for the sixth inning, he did so to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” which is Yankees closer Mariano Rivera’s entrance music.