A pregame conference, between starting pitcher Drew Naylor and catcher Kevin Nelson, on how to handle Thunder lead-off man Justin Christian didn't prove as successful as the pair from Reading would have liked. Christian bested the Reading Phillies battery, delivering a 3-run homerun to lead Trenton to their third straight victory over the R-Phils, by a score of 4-3.
Naylor and Nelson were able to force Christian to ground out to shortstop Freddy Galvis in each of his first two at bats, but their game plan didn't stop Christian from pulling a long drive over the left field wall that gave the Thunder the lead for good on Saturday night. Christian drove in Marcos Vechionacci and Jack Rye, who began the Trenton half of the 5th inning with back-to-back singles.
Reading bagan the scoring in the second when Kevin Nelson laced an RBI single that scored Cody Overbeck. Trenton clapped back in their half of the frame when Daniel Brewer singled to drive home Brandon Laird, who led off the inning with a double.
The R-Phils added 2 more runs in the 3rd inning, when lefty slugger Matt Rizzotti hammered a huge blast to the opposite field for a homerun, with center fielder Mike Spidale on base.
Naylor, an Australia native, took his 7th loss of the season, despite a solid effort for Reading. He struck out 5, walked just 1 and allowed 4 earned runs in his 8 innings pitched. It was the second complete game loss by a Reading pitcher in the 3 games the teams have played thus far in the 4-game series. R-Phils manager Steve Roadcap was impressed by Naylor's outing. "It was an outstanding performance. He's a great competitor and he made just one mistake," Roadcap said after the game. "He had command of all his pitches, except one."
Naylor, 24, is now the owner of an 8-7 record and a 4.05 ERA in 18 games.
Roadcap views Naylor as a pitcher who could help the big league club down the road. "He's commanding the bottom of the zone better. He has worked very, very hard at it. His slider has come a long way. He's made tremendous strides and hopefully, we'll see him in the big leagues."
Trenton pitcher Cory Arbiso earned the win for the Thunder, who find themselves in first place in the Eastern League's Eastern Division following a New Hampshire loss to Binghamton on Saturday.
Kevin Whelan pitched a scoreless 9th to notch the save, but it wasn't easy. With 1 out, Rich Thompson reached base on a single. Harold Garcia followed that up with a single of his own that pushed Thompson to 3rd base. With runners on the corners, Spidale chopped a ball that nearly bounced over Whelan, but he reached up, grabbed the ball, and flipped it home just in time for Thunder catcher Austin Romine to tag Thompson out at home. That brought the power threat Rizzotti to the plate with 2 runners on and 2 outs, but Whelan shut him down on 3 strikes to preserve the game for the Thunder.
The loss for Reading (44-48) places them 11 1/2 games out of first place in the Eastern Division standings.
The series concludes on Sunday at 1:05pm, when Yohan Flande (6-6, 4.14 ERA) faces Trenton starter DJ Mitchell (7-3, 4.67 ERA).
More Reading notes...
BJ Rosenberg (right lat strain) threw a bullpen session, in Trenton, on Friday and experienced no soreness afterward. Rosenberg told me he should be ready to face batters in a week or so and expects to do so in Florida.
Tyson Gillies has been sidelined with a right hamstring strain but has been working out daily, even participating in batting practice with the Reading Phillies. His rehab schedule has him beginning a running program on Thursday the 22nd. He hopes to be back and ready to play all of August and September.
R-Phils second baseman Harold Garcia began the Trenton series 1-for-11 before he got hits in his last 2 at bats on Saturday. Roadcap says Garcia is still making some adjustments after his recent promotion to Double A and says Garcia is a hard worker who will improve.
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