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

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Longballs do in Marshall, Thunder in Game 1

READING, Pa. -- All season long, the Thunder have lived by the home run. On Wednesday night, it was their undoing.

The R-Phils swatted three longballs off of Trenton ace Brett Marshall – a fifth of the total he allowed all season – in a 4-2 Trenton loss in Game 1 of the Eastern League Division Series on a gorgeous night at a half-full FirstEnergy Stadium.

Staked to a two-run lead courtesy of – what else? – a two-run dinger, this time from newcomer Ramon Flores, Marshall seemed on his way to giving his team an all-important edge in the best-of-five series. He had no-hit the R-Phils through four, and the only baserunners he’d allowed were on a pair of hit batsmen.

Then he made a mistake up in the zone. Jake Fox, a professional mistake hitter if ever there were such a thing, turned it into Reading’s first run with a soaring bomb that nearly cleared the bleachers in left field. The blast preceded Jiwan James’ RBI groundout, which squared the score again.

“I thought I was throwing the ball well over the first four innings,” Marshall said. “In the fifth inning, I left the ball up and that’s what’s going to happen. I wish I could get those pitches back, but there’s nothing I can do.”

Marshall worked around a two-out double in the sixth from league MVP Darin Ruf, but couldn’t equal the feat in the seventh, when Tommy Joseph and Leandro Castro swatted two of his first three pitches into the seats to give Reading its margin of victory.

It was just the second time since May that Marshall had lasted through the seventh inning and, after a career-high 165 1/3 innings this season, he admitted afterward that he felt a little fatigue in the later frames.

“I’ve had my tired innings when I’m like, ‘Oh, my arm’s hanging right now,’’ he said. “Other than that, it’s all mentality there. That’s when the mental part of it comes in like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to find a way to get through this.’”

Just as they did in 2010, the Thunder will turn to a major leaguer in the postseason’s second game. It was Andy Pettitte taking the hill against New Hampshire two years ago at Waterfront Park, and it will be David Aardsma on Thursday in Reading.

The right-hander, who is recovering from a torn elbow ligament suffered while rehabbing from hip surgery, was signed by the Yankees this offseason in the hopes that he could bolster the bullpen in 2013. Aardsma, who this week became a father for the second time, says the circumstances surrounding his sixth rehab appearance don’t add any pressure.

“I never think of things like that, even in normal situations,” Aardsma, who purchased a postgame spread from Outback Steakhouse for his new teammates, said. “It doesn’t matter in the big leagues or here. I have to make my pitches. That’s all that matters.”

After Aardsma completes his frame, he’ll hand the ball to Shaeffer Hall, the left-hander on his second season with Trenton. And although it’s not optimal, Hall does have a little experience relieving a rehabbing big leaguer. He twice appeared after Phil Hughes rehab starts in 2011, and is comfortable doing so again Thursday, albeit under more pressurized circumstances.

“I look at it like any other game,” he explained. “If we had won tonight, I would have had to go out there and do the same thing I would have if we were down 0-1. … Hopefully I can put my team in a chance to win tomorrow and tie the series back up going home tomorrow.”

Trenton will be opposed by Trevor May, the Phillies' top pitching prospect who has been troubled by bouts of both mental and physical inconsistency. Since the end of July, however, things have gone swimmingly for the towering righty. He’s allowed two or fewer earned runs in six out of those eight turns, and has fanned 47 hitters in 45 innings.

Even faced with a deficit, Marshall and the Thunder are not daunted by the task ahead. They’ve made a habit of wild comebacks all season long, and, Marshall says, are more than ready to do so one more time.

“We’ll be able to (come back),” Marshall said. “Reading is a good team, but I think we’ve got a better hitting team, a better defensive team, a better all-around team. I think our pitching’s really (good), especially the guys we just called up. I think we’ll be just fine.”


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