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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Postgame recap - May 12

Final score: Trenton 5, Portland 1

Synopsis: Cory Arbiso was brilliant. He tossed seven innings of one-run ball, walked two and struck out two, and induced 12 groundouts, including 10 to either shortstop Addison Maruszak or third baseman Kevin Mahoney. Arbiso was backed by back-to-back homers from Luke Murton and Cody Johnson. Murton had four RBIs, which tied a career best. 

Bright spots: Let's start with Arbiso, who, over the last three seasons with Trenton, has been one of the most valuable pitchers on the staff. As I wrote in today's paper, he's been the Thunder's version of Ramiro Mendoza. In other words, he has taken the ball in a variety of roles, and has given his team valuable innings that otherwise would have to be divvied among the bullpen. 

“Invaluable,” manager Tony Franklin said about his starter. “You’ve seen him, and you’ve seen how we’ve used him whenever there’s been a situation where we’ve lost a pitcher, particularly a starter, he’s gone in there and he’s done well for us.”

He's started five games this season, but he hasn't been able to settle into a rhythm until recently. His first start came on three days of rest, his next on nine days, and his third on 10 days. His last two have come on the traditional four days, which Arbiso says has made a world of difference. 

"That was difficult for me, but I felt a lot better with that five days rest and getting your sides through and so on," he said, referring to the traditional work a pitcher will complete between starts, which can be tough to schedule when you don't know when you're pitching next. 

Arbiso also noted that felt uncomfortable early in the game, and that pitching coach Tommy Phelps told him between the first and second innings that he needed to forget everything and focus getting in a rhythm, something Arbiso said he did very well during his time with Cal-State Fullerton. 

“My mechanics were in my head -- I was working on direction -- but sure enough I got out of it only giving up one. I didn’t have a rhythm out there that first inning,” he said. “I went out there, changed my mechanics just a little bit. … Mostly, the whole thing was just getting the rhythm, and that’s what I did.”

Of course, when there's a pitcher on the hill who uses contact to get his outs, the defense behind him has to be superb. Last night, for one of the first times this season, it was. Maruszak and Mahoney were gangbusters on the left side, essentially putting up a brick wall between the infield and the outfield all night long. 

"I liked it. I liked a lot," Franklin said," but I think they're capable of doing that, and I told you guys that. Our ability to play defense is going to be the one thing that's going to help us win baseball games. We have to play defense. We have to catch the ball and throw the ball to first base and throw the ball to second base. I think if we do that, we'll be fine."

"It's still a defensive game, nine guys against one," Franklin continued. "That guy out on the hill is very important, and when we make pitches it's important that we get outs. When we start giving guys 30 outs, 31, we're going to lose, there's no question about it."

Beyond Arbiso and the men with gloves behind him, there was the offense, which has been a pleasant surprise all season. Johnson's longball -- another typically effortless and majestic shot from the Eastern League's best replica of Adam Dunn -- tied him for the league lead (with teammate Melky Mesa) with seven homers. He's hitting them out at a clip of approximately once every 16 at-bats. 

Murton's shot was also crushed to the point where I legitimately feared for my car in the parking lot beyond the 30-foot wall in left field. He spoke afterward about what he saw against Portland starter Billy Buckner, who had stonewalled the Thunder over the first five frames. 

"My first two at-bats weren't great, and then my last two at-bats I got some good pitches to hit with guys on and I put some good swings on them. That's all I can ask for," he said. "(Buckner's) a good pitcher. He was making good pitches early in the game (and) we weren't hitting them. Later in the game he made a couple of mistakes and we hit them." 

Kelvin Perez also continued his stellar work out of the bullpen. The stick-like righty hurled two more scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 0.44 and his average against to a meager .164. He's been scored upon in just one of his 13 appearances, and has permitted just nine hits over 20 2/3 innings. He does have 12 walks, though, which obviously need to be cut down if he's to succeed past Double-A. 

Abraham Almonte swapped his original center field slot for Melky Mesa's designated hitter slot just before game time. Both Mesa and Almonte have played in all but one game this season. Almonte's had a bit of a sore arm of late, but Franklin downplayed that aspect, saying he just needed to get Almonte a bit of a half day.

- This was the fourth straight game the Thunder have played in less than 3 hours. All their other games this month have gone 3 hours or more.

- Jose Gil had a strange day on the basepaths. He stole base by easily 40 feet, then was thrown out by at least that margin (a rundown was involved) on the back end of a double steal with Dan Brewer. 

Picks to click: The Trentonian's website is down, but I'll link my game story and notes when it's back up. 

Flicks to click: Here are videos Murton and Johnson's longballs, and a grounder to third induced by Arbiso. Those three pretty much sum up the game, don't you think?


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