The Trenton Thunder were looking to complete a sweep of the Altoona Curve on Thursday night, but not even the great Mariano Rivera throwing out the ceremonial first pitch would give the Thunder the upper hand. For only the fifth time all year, the Thunder were shut out.
Joel De La Cruz, the 25-year old Dominican right-hander, started the game for the Thunder. He opened the game with a perfect inning, with two ground balls to one fly ball. Curve lefty starter Jhonathon Ramos matched De La Cruz with his own perfect first inning, including a strikeout of Thunder catcher Gary Sanchez.
De La Cruz recorded his first strike out of the game in the second, sending left fielder Willy Garcia back to the bench empty handed. He also gave up his first hit in the second, a double to Curve catcher Elias Diaz. But Diaz would be the only base runner the Curve would muster in the second inning. Ramos continued his perfect night through the second, including a strikeout of Wednesday’s hero, Thunder first baseman Greg Bird.
De La Cruz kept Altoona’s hitters off-balance in the third inning, not allowing a base runner while notching his second strikeout, this time against Curve second baseman Alen Hansen. Ramos responded with his third straight perfect inning.
The wheels fell off for De La Cruz in the fourth inning. After retiring the first batter, he gave up a single to right fielder Josh Bell. However, Bell was thrown out trying to steal. With two outs, and a only one base runner allowed throw 3.2 innings, De La Cruz couldn’t have expected what happened next. De La Cruz proceeded to walk three straight Altoona hitters, loading the bases with two outs. Altoona third baseman Dan Gamache drove in Stetson Allie and Elias Diaz with a single. Center fielder Keon Broxton followed that up with a double of his own, plating Willy Garcia and moving Gamache to third. After all three batters he walked had scored, De La Cruz finaly made it out of the fourth with a ground ball to first by Andy Vasquez. The Curve’s Ramos continued his perfect game through the fourth.
De La Cruz allowed a double to Hansen to start off the fifth, an uncomfortable way to start the inning after giving up three runs in the inning before. But he settled down and got out of the inning with no more base runners, and no more runs scored, and picked up his third strikeout. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Altoona’s Ramos finally lost his no hitter, to a single by Dan Fiorito. Trenton couldn’t muster anything more than that one base hit in the fifth, however.
Cesar Cabral came into the game in the sixth inning for the Thunder, striking out one and walking one. Ramos finished his night with another perfect inning, leaving the game after six innings with a 3-0 lead.
The seventh inning started badly for Cabral and the Thunder. After walking Vasquez, Hansen laid down a sacrifice bunt that Cabral threw away, an error leading to runners on second and third with no one out. He would strike out the next batter, Drew Maggi, and get Bell to hit a ball back to the mound for out number two. At this point, Thunder manager Tony Franklin took the ball from Cabral and handed it over to Mark Montgomery, the struggling former top reliever prospect. Montgomery would end the inning with a ground ball to third base by Stetson Allie.
Jeff Inman would come in to relieve Ramos for the Altoona Curve in the top of the seventh. Ben Gamel led off the bottom of the seventh with just the second hit of the night by the Thunder, a line drive single to right field. Gary Sanchez followed that with a walk, getting the first base runner in scoring position for the first time all night. A Tyler Austin double play and a Greg Bird ground ball out ended the inning before the Thunder could score.
Montgomery made quick work of the Curve in the eight inning, getting two outs before walking Gamache. Gamache was then thrown out trying to steal second by Gary Sanchez. The Thunder again threatened to score in the bottom half of the inning, when a Fiorito walk and a Dante Bichette Jr. double put runners on second and third with no outs. However, Inman would strike out the next two Thunder batters. He was then replaced by lefty Nate Baker to face lefty Jake Cave. Cave proceeded to pop up to left field and end the inning.
Montgomery had a rough start to the ninth inning, giving up a Broxton double, followed by a Vasquez two-run home run. However, he got three of the next for batters out to end the inning. Down 5-0, and only being able to collect three hits off the Curve pitching staff, the Thunder offense was looking for a ninth inning comeback. That comeback never came, as Altoona giant Kenn Kasparek came in and slammed the door shut, striking out the last two Thunder hitters of the night, Gary Sanchez and Tyler Austin. And with that, the Thunder fall to the Curve by a final score of 5-0.