Big fifth pushes Thunder past Portland
And for the second straight night, the Thunder’s victory was fueled by a big inning and a crooked number on the scoreboard. It wasn’t quite the nine runs on 10 hits that they used against Britton, but they did bat around and strike for five runs in a win that ran their streak to five in a row and vaulted them over the Sea Dogs for sole possession of second place in the Eastern Division.
“It’s always a mystery what you’re going to do against a knuckleballer,” Thunder manager Tony Franklin said. “It depends on how his knuckleball is. Guys were saying that, as the game progressed, the knuckleball got better. The first inning, it didn’t have a lot of movement, but as the game went on that thing was dancing. We were fortunate to get a few runs off of him.”
With the Thunder already up by a pair, Tyler Austin and Kyle Roller opened the fifth inning with consecutive hits off of Haeger. Shortstop Carmen Angelini followed with a walk to load the bases for Andrew Clark, the newcomer the Yankees signed earlier in the week out of the Frontier League.
He laced a single to center that brought home another run and knocked Haeger from the game. After sifting through knuckleballs for four-plus innings, Trenton had no trouble adjusting Pete Ruiz and his traditional arsenal of heat and breaking stuff.
“It’s not that difficult,” Franklin said in regard to a lineup re-adjusting from a knuckleballer to a more standard hurler. “I think everybody’s glad to see him go. Once he’s gone, everybody breathes a little bit easier.”
Corona greeted Ruiz with an RBI knock, and catcher Francisco Arcia followed a batter later with a two-run hit. Left fielder Ramon Flores finished the frame with a single to right-center field in front of Shannon Wilkerson.
Kyle Roller put a cherry on top an inning later with a mammoth homer over the batter’s eye in left-center field.
“I got myself into a good hitting count and tried to really simplify things,” Roller said. “I tried to pick out a spot and a location and he gave me a good pitch to hit and I got good wood on it.”
All that offense was more than enough for Mikey O’Brien, who’s been as reliable as any starter in the Thunder’s rotation this season. He finished six innings with just one run and five hits on his ledger. He struck out five and walked one.
Danny Burawa and Cesar Cabral pitched the final three innings. Cabral, the Yankees’ former Rule 5 selection from 2012, allowed two runs on three hits and three walks over his four outs.
NOTES: Trenton received pitchers Zach Nuding and Fred Lewis from Triple-A before the game. Both hurlers pitched for the RailRiders on Friday. To make room, Jose Ramirez and Caleb Cotham were transferred off Trenton’s roster. Neither Cotham nor Ramirez ever returned to Trenton from Scranton.