TRENTON – After splitting the first two games of their three game series with Binghamton, the Thunder received six stellar innings in relief from Nestor Cortes and got timely hitting in the later innings to scrape out a 6-3 victory in the rubber game over the Rumble Ponies on Thursday night. The Trenton win improved their Eastern League best mark to 34-18 and extended their division lead over the Ponies to three games.
Second baseman Thairo Estrada continued his torrid stretch by smacking a triple off of Binghamton starter Blake Beaven into the rightfield corner to leadoff the home half of the first inning. A sac-fly RBI by first baseman Mike Ford and an RBI single by left fielder Zack Zehner staked Trenton to an early 2-0 advantage.
Third Baseman Miguel Andujar blasted his sixth homer of the season in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to 11-games and the Thunder lead to 3-0.
Just as everything appeared to be coming up roses for Trenton, starter Yefry Ramirez, the league leader in wins with six, toed the rubber for Trenton and hurled three shutout frames before Manager Bobby Mitchell, Pitching Coach Jose Rosado and the team training staff had to meet him at the mound prior to the start of the fourth inning. Mitchell removed Ramirez for what was described as a thumb nail issue on his throwing hand.
“He has a little issue on his thumb, with the nail on the side,” admitted Mitchell. “He can throw his fastball and he can throw his change-up, but when he throws his slider it just really presses on it.”
Mitchell added, “he probably could have gone out and thrown, but his slider wasn’t working for him so to err on the side of caution so that he doesn’t miss a start we wanted to get him out.”
Cortes came on in relief of Ramirez and immediately found himself in a jam. After issuing a one out walk to left fielder Kevin Taylor, Cortes balked him over to second base before first baseman Matt Oberste grounded a single into left to cut the Thunder lead to 3-1.
“It is a little unexpected,” said Cortes. “With a guy like Ramirez out there, you expect him to go six or seven innings every time that he is out there. You can’t really prepare to go out there in the third inning and pitch six innings.
Three consecutive hits to open the sixth inning put Binghamton in prime position to get right back into the game. A single by Taylor and a 6-4-3 double play grounder by Oberste allowed the Rumble Ponies to knot the game at three runs a piece.
A sac-fly RBI by right fielder Billy McKinney in the sixth inning and a two-run single by Andujar put Trenton ahead for good, 6-3. Andujar went 2-for-4 on the night and his three RBI put him in the league lead with 41. In his six innings of work, Cortes allowed just four hits and fanned four to pick-up the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“I prepared like I was going in to start,” Cortes said. “Since it was so early in the game and I knew I was going to go extended innings so my game plan was to just attack and go after hitters as if it was a normal start.”