TRENTON – It was a tale of two pitchers.
For Trenton (55-28), starter Brady Koerner was making his double-A debut on Tuesday night. For the Reading Fightin Phils (50-31), veteran Jerad Eickhoff was on a rehab assignment. And when it was over, the Thunder held on for a 2-0 victory at ARM & HAMMER Park in a game that lasted only two hours and five minutes.
“We pretty much did it with pitching and defense tonight,” said Thunder Manager Bobby Mitchell. “I haven’t seen [Koerner] at all. He was great. He came out and changed speeds real well – moved all around the strike zone. Kept them off-balance. He gave up some hits, but no extra-base hits. And I thought that our defense was good.
“And [Eickhoff] pitched well tonight too. He’s a veteran guy, he’s got a real good curveball. It had a big break in it. I though they pitched well throughout.”
Koerner (1-0) pitched seven solid innings, and one extraordinary inning in this game. Although he gave up nine hits (as Mitchell said none were for extra bases) and he finished without surrendering a run while walking and striking out one on 102 pitches.
That extraordinary inning came in the eighth. After striking out what appeared to be his last hitter of the game in the top of the seventh inning, Koerner came back out in the eighth and quickly got into a jam. The Fightin Phils’ first three hitters reached base with hits, and loaded the bases without recording an out.
After a brief visit on the mound, there was no motion to go to the bullpen — and just as quickly as he pitched himself into trouble, Koerner pitched himself out of it. He induced two infield pop-ups by the next two hitters, and then a can of corn to centerfield to end the threat without conceding a run.
“It was his game, you know, he pitched so well that we were not going to pull him out [at that point],” Mitchell said of the decision to leave Koerner in the game with the bases loaded. “Maybe if they scored we would have, (Colten) Brewer was ready, but he got the two pop-ups in the infield and then we’re not going to take him out anymore. He did a really good job.”
On the other side, Eickhoff made one mistake over his five innings of work and it was an 0-1 pitch to Trenton’s designated hitter Zack Zehner that he sent over the wall in left-center field.
Later, in the bottom of the eighth, Rashad Crawford reached base on a fielder’s choice and then went from first to third after a stolen base and an errant throw into the outfield. With two outs in the inning, Crawford scored easily on a passed ball that went all the way to the backstop.
“That was a great play. A lot of guys don’t get to third off the throw there, but he got back up and made it and that got him in position to score that run there,” Mitchell said. “That was a huge play for us.”
Brewer came in to finish the game in the ninth inning and sat the side down in order with two strike outs to pick up his sixth save of the year.
The Thunder and Fightin Phils will continue their series on Wednesday at ARM & HAMMER Park. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
Thunder first baseman Mike Ford was notified after the game on Tuesday night that he was being promoted to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. This will mark Ford’s second stint with the RailRiders this season. In nine games with Scranton earlier this year, Ford slashed .306/.432/.750 with four home runs, four doubles, and 10 RBIs.