The Thunder struck in the 9th inning with three runs off of Reading reliever Colby Shreve to knot the Double-A Eastern League division series at one game apiece in the best of five match up.
The outburst was a result of clutch hitting with some luck sprinkled on top as, with the bases loaded, Trenton designated hitter Rob Segedin laced a slicing drive to right field that got by a diving Leandro Castro resulting in a triple while plating three runs.
The right-handed Shreve (6-3, 3.69 ERA, 4 saves in 47 games at three levels this year) began the 9th by getting David Adams out on a grounder, but a walk to Zoilo Almonte and a single by Addison Maruszak presented a tough spot for the 24-year-old former 6th round draft selection. Shreve then battled back, striking out catcher J.R. Murphy. Shreve then issued an intentional walk to lefty hitter Kevin Mahoney to reach the more appealing match up against the righty batting Segedin, who was 0-for-3 in the contest to that point.
Shreve was charged with the loss, the Las Vegas native's first defeat since his Double-A debut back in June. Trenton reliever Branden Pinder came away with the win after facing just one batter in the 8th.
The R-Phils got the scoring started in the opening inning, when they notched three hits against rehabbing big leaguer David Aardsma. Following a walk to lead-off man Tyson Gillies and a single by third baseman Cody Asche, league most valuable player Darin Ruf stroked a single to left field where Ramon Flores booted the ball a bit, enabling Gillies to score. An aggressive Asche, trying to move up an extra base on the play, was thrown out at third base. No further damage was done for the remainder of the contest, as Reading recorded just two more hits the rest of the way.
Trenton answered back in the 5th inning when Reading starter Trevor May, who had just retired twelve straight Thunder batters, served up a lead-off homer to Thunder shortstop Maruszak. May, the top rated Phils prospect according to preseason rankings released by PhilliesNation.com, allowed just that lone earned run in 5 1/3 innings while striking out six, walking two and giving up three hits.
Kyle Simon (1-0, 1.42 ERA in 13 relief outings for Reading during the regular season) entered the game in relief of May, who allowed two runners to reach base in the 6th inning, and dazzled the opposition, retiring all eight of the batters he faced.
Of Simon's effort, manager Dusty Wathan was extremely pleased and stated it was precisely the type of contribution that he expects from the right-hander who was acquired from Baltimore in the Jim Thome trade earlier this year.
"He's been outstanding for us all year," Wathan stated. "He comes in and gets ground balls and it was a perfect situation to bring Simon in right there. We needed a ground ball with one out (and two runners on). He's as automatic of a ground ball as you're gonna get. That was a good outing for him."
Thunder hurler Shaeffer Hall was very solid, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out two in 5 2/3 innings.
The series continues on Friday in Trenton for game 3, as Ethan Martin (5-0, 3.18 ERA) will face Mikey O'Brien (5-7, 4.20 ERA) at 7:05 PM. Game 4 will be at the same time on Saturday and game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for 4:05 PM on Sunday.
The short trip from Reading to Trenton, which spans roughly 80 miles, presents a nice situation for the R-Phils who don't mind competing at Waterfront Park, where they won four of seven contests during the regular season.
"It's nice, you don't have to get on the bus for six or seven hours. It's nice to go to Trenton because we get a lot of fans over there, a lot of Phillie fans. We played well there this year, so I'm glad we're going to Trenton," Wathan stated.
Wathan said of Aardsma, who threw just one rehab inning, "I wish we could have faced him for two (innings)."
Jiwan James, who has been dealing with a sore right knee for much of the season was out of the lineup on Thursday, but was available to play. Wathan has been resting James, at times, but in the playoffs, if the match up is suitable for the club, James will be active, according to the R-Phils' skipper.
Wathan confirmed prior to game 2 that LHP Mario Hollands would start game 5 on Sunday, if the series goes that long.
For more exclusive quotes from Wathan, including his thoughts on a possible September call up for Darin Ruf, click this link.
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