TRENTON, NJ – Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell was talking about how well outfielder Billy McKinney has settled in since the Aroldis Chapman trade switched his place of business from Kodak, TN, to the Garden State.
“He’s playing the outfield well and really fitting in,’’ said Mitchell. “He’s also feeling more comfortable at the plate.’’
McKinney confirmed his manager’s thinking Sunday in Game 1 of a doubleheader with the Altoona Curve, which the Thunder (68-40) swept by scores of 4-1 and 3-1, moving within 3.5 games of the Reading Fighin’ Phils in the Eastern League East and 6 games ahead of the Hartford Yard Goats in the battle for the division’s wild-card spot. His first EL home run produced insurance.
In Game 2, right-hander Chance Adams boosted his overall record to 12-0 (7-0 with the Thunder) with 5.1 shutout innings.
In the opener of the doubleheader, the Thunder grabbed a pair of early runs on run-scoring hits from McKinney and Abiatal Avelino. The Thunder led 3-0 when Altoona grabbed their lone run in the fourth with an Edwin Espinal RBI single. The Thunder got that insurance run from McKinney in the fifth, when he hit that solo home run, his second of the season.
Will Carter went the first four innings, allowing one run across four innings. Caleb Smith was in line for the victory with a 1-2-3 fifth inning of relief and Cale Coshow finished the game with a two-inning save on the mound.
The Thunder got another impressive pitching performance from Adams to start the second game of the doubleheader. Adams struck out nine across his 5.1 shutout innings on the mound. Adams finished an outstanding month of July with his fourth victory and held opponents to an .098 batting average.
Again, the Thunder scored twice in their half of the first inning in Game 2. An error by Curve center fielder Harold Ramirez opened the door for the Thunder and Mike Ford cashed in immediately with a run-scoring groundout. Mark Payton followed him with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
The game stayed that way until the fifth when Dustin Fowler hit a solo home run to right field for a 3-0 lead. Altoona made it interesting in the seventh when they loaded the bases against Matt Wotherspoon. When a run came across with a bases loaded walk to Eric Weiss, Tyler Jones entered and got Harold Ramirez to fly out to right to end the game.
The Thunder take the season series from the Curve with the two wins. Thunder pitching has been particularly good against Altoona, holding the Curve to 11 earned runs in 57 innings (1.74 ERA).
With the victories, the Thunder are 13-0-3 in home series this season.
The Thunder continue their homestand at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Yard Goats. LHP Daniel Camarena will start for the Thunder, RHP Sam Howard will go for Hartford. The first 2,000 fans, ages 14-and-up, will receive the latest issue of Yankees Magazine Tickets are available by phone at 609-394-3300 or online at TrentonThunder.com.