TRENTON, NJ – So far, this visit to Central Jersey and ARM & HAMMER Park is not one the Akron RubberDucks are enjoying.
The Ducks, Cleveland’s Double-A club, arrived in Trenton with a 10-3 mark after having dominated defending Eastern League champion Bowie, a solid Altoona team and Binghamton in their first few series. They were also swinging the bats well.
“Really that’s a good-hiring team over there,” said Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell after bis team’s 6-1 win Saturday night before 4,439 fans.. “There are a lot of good prospects (including outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier).
“Right now, 0ur pitchers are hitting the spots on both sides of the plate. That is making their fastballs so much more effective..”
The Ducks, now 10-6, as are the Thunder, first ran into right-hander Ronald Herrera Thursday, then lefties Dietrich Enns Friday and Jordan Montgomery Saturday. Their hitters have struck out 39 times in the first three games of this series, and are clearly perplexed by what the Thunder staff is throwing their way.
“We’ve really been mixing it up, throwing off-speed stuff in fastball counts and fastballs when they might not be looking for them,” said Montgomery, who tossed six scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and walking only one. He threw 96 pitches, 60 for strikes, in his best start while improving to 2-0, 1.59.
“I’m really getting a lot more comfortable in this league,” he said. “My problem in the beginning was I was giving the hitters too much credit. Certainly the hitters are a little more experienced here, and the strike zone is a little smaller, but I told myself I was at this level for a reason.”
Montgomery also worked out of three jams. That he walked just one was a key to it all.
“He pitched very well,” said Mitchell. “The fact he walked only one was a major key to it.”
The Thunder pitching staff ,with a 3.01 ERA in 16 games, ranks second in the Eastern League. Its 132 strikeouts are third, Its WHIP of 1.28 is fourth.
“All our guys had good performances in Spring Training,” said Mitchell. “You never know if that will translate into the season. So far it has.”
Two key home runs gave Montgomery – and relievers Matt Wotherspoon and Giovanny Gallegos – all the support needed, Akron scored only an unearned run in the top of the eighth.
Dan Fiorito, who is hitting .294 since joining the Thunder, hit his first home run of 2016 off Akron starter Adam Plutko in the bottom of the second, scoring Dante Bichette ahead of him, His blast cleared the left-center field wall and bounced back onto the field.
“I wasn’t sure if it went out, as I was running the bases, but then I saw the umpire giving the sign,” said Fiorito. “It’s just good to be here and playing with guys I have been with for the last few years.
Sebastian Valle, in his first game back from the disabled list, put the game away for the Thunder with a three-run shot in the bottom of the eighth.
“I thought Sebastian (who was 3-for-4) might be a bit rusty,” said Mitchell. “But he was hitting real well in Florida.”
Thunder right-hander Brady Lail (0-1, 3.78) faces Akron left-hander Shawn Morimando (3-0, 2.08) in the series finale at 1 p.m. Sunday.