Thunder Thumped, division lead cut to a half game
By MIKE ASHMORE
For The Trentonian
TRENTON — This was a big loss in more ways than one for the Thunder.
Their 10-4 defeat at the hands of the Akron Aeros last night was both large in margin and significance. Matt Liuzza hit a tenth inning walk-off home run to lead the Fisher Cats past Harrisburg, 1-0, and cut the Thunder’s division lead over New Hampshire to just a half a game.
A 33-minute first inning set the tone for a long, painful loss. Trenton starter Cory Arbiso picked a bad time to turn in his worst outing of the year, and things went south quickly for him.
Aeros designated hitter Jerad Head’s RBI single accounted for the first run of the game, but first baseman Beau Mills delivered the first of many big blows off of Arbiso, sending a three-run blast over the right field wall and into the river to give Akron a 4-0 lead in the first inning.
Trenton tacked on two runs on back-to-back singles by Austin Romine and Marcos Vechionacci to cut the deficit in half in the bottom part of the frame, but the Aeros would not relent. Akron put up crooked numbers in each of the next four innings, boosting their advantage to 10-4 after the fifth inning was over.
With a short bullpen — the relief core was down two men with the call-ups of George Kontos and John Van Benschoten to Scranton -- Arbiso was forced to take one for the team. The line wasn’t pretty: 4+ IP, 13 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.
“I just couldn’t command the strike zone,” Arbiso said.
“Usually I can command my fastball, and you need to command your fastball here in Double-A or else it’s going to hurt. That’s what happened today.”
After Arbiso’s outing, Wilkins Arias and J.B. Cox stopped the bleeding with four innings of scoreless relief, but it was too little, too late for the Thunder, who fell to 79-57 on the season.
Just how short was the bullpen? Infielder Justin Snyder made his professional pitching debut in the ninth inning. Snyder spun a scoreless ninth, allowing one hit and one walk.
Lance Berkman, on the back end of a two-game rehab stint with the Thunder, went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Overall, he went 2-for-8 with a run scored, a walk and three strikeouts in Trenton’s first position player rehab since Jose Molina’s appearance late last season.
The first baseman, acquired from the Houston Astros at the trade deadline, has been on the disabled list since August 19 (retroactive to 8/15) with an ankle sprain. He’s heading back to the Bronx today when rosters expand.
“I felt fine, the ankle is fine,” Berkman said. “There’s nothing wrong there. It was just good to come down to come down and get a couple at-bats. I’m ready to come back up there.”
NOTES: Outfielder Edwar Gonzalez was called up to Triple-A Scranton after the game. The Thunder are not expected to immediately replace him on the roster.