TRENTON – Sporting the Eastern Leagues best record at 12-7 and riding the momentum of a three-game series sweep over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats earlier in the week, the Thunder welcomed in the Erie SeaWolves on Friday Night at ARM & HAMMER Park looking to make it four in a row for the second time this season.
To improve their cause, the Thunder activated top-prospect Gleyber Torres from the DL prior to the game after missing nine games with mild rotator cuff tendinitis. The Yankees top-prospect batted third and served as the DH on Friday night.
In search of his first victory on the season, Domingo German took the mound for Trenton and ran into immediate trouble in the first inning but managed to escape the frame by allowing just one run. A single by left fielder Christin Stewart allowed Erie to load the bases before first baseman Dominic Ficociello plated a run on an RBI groundout.
German was again greeted rudely in the second inning by a well-struck lead-off single by third baseman Kody Eaves which set the stage for catcher Grayson Greiner to drive him home on a long double off of the left field wall. The double by Greiner appeared to have hit above the yellow line for a two-run homer, but the umpire ruled the hit a double and ultimately saved Trenton a run.
After finding better command of the strike-zone, German settled in nicely over his final two plus innings of work before Manager Bobby Mitchell pulled him with two outs and nobody on in the fifth inning at the 97 pitch plateau. The 24-year old right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits with one walk and eight strikeouts.
“I thought he made some really good pitches in clutch situations with men on base,” said Mitchell of German’s outing. “He pitched backwards a little bit getting swings on his change-up and commanded it better and he started to find the zone more.”
Mitchell added, “I thought he got better and better as the game went on. It’s good to see a young guy battle through what might not be his best stuff at the beginning, but eventually he settles in and is able to keep us in the game.”
Nester Cortes was summoned out of the bullpen to relieve German and uncharacteristically had trouble throwing strikes and getting ahead early in counts. The southpaw issued four walks and allowed two hits and two runs over 1 2/3 innings of work that allowed Erie to extend their lead to 4-1.
“Nester, who has been awesome for us, walked four guys,” said Mitchell. “That is not really what he does; he was a little off in this game. If you walk four guys, you’re probably going to give up a run, or two. He held them two one run each inning, but the way we’re swinging the bats right now, that’s a lot.”
Trenton had a golden opportunity to get back into the game in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Catcher Franciso Diaz drew a leadoff walk and quickly advanced to second base on a wild pitch by reliever Victor Alcantara. Diaz would remain there until Torres would score him on an error that tied-up third baseman Kody Eaves. Suddenly trailing by two runs, first baseman Mike Ford singled to put the tying runs on base with two-outs. Third baseman Miguel Andujar, the team leader in RBI with 14, could not convert and grounded out to third base to end the inning.
“We didn’t have a lot of chances to score runs,” Mitchell said. “There is no productive outs that we’re getting at all right now. We’re not putting the ball in play enough. We were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, so that pretty much says that.”
Erie set the Thunder down in order in the ninth inning to nail down the 4-2 victory. Trenton will look to rebound on Saturday night when lefty Justus Sheffield (1-0 1.56 ERA) will make his fourth start of the year against fellow southpaw Anthony Vasquez (2-1 1.96 ERA).