TRENTON – Fueled by a four-run fourth inning on Monday night, the Thunder came from behind to defeat the Reading Fightin Phils by a score of 4-3 in the opener of their three game slate at ARM & HAMMER Park. The victory marked the sixth straight for Trenton and 13 out of their last 15 overall. The surge has put Manager Jay Bell‘s team in a tie with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats atop the Eastern division of the Eastern League, though Trenton has played two more games than their division foe.
The victory on Monday night was highlighted by a two-run double from outfielder Ben Ruta that broke a 2-2 tie and ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. The 23-year old local West Windsor, NJ product currently ranks fourth in the league in hitting with a .347 mark. Ruta also ranks amongst the top-10 in the EL with seven stolen bases in nine attempts. We featured Ruta earlier this season, which you can check out here.
While the Thunder offense has struggled mightily, hitting just .220 as a team, which ranks just one point above Harrisburg for worst in the league, the pitching has proved to be the meal ticket to the top of the standings. Trenton has the second best ERA in the EL (2.64) while allowing the fewest hits (187) and striking out a league-high 273.
Now that southpaw Justus Sheffield has received his long anticipated promotion to Triple-A, which I spoke to him about last week, the attention in the Thunder rotation should now focus on right-hander Erik Swanson. Viewed by many as a secondary piece in the return for Carlos Beltran in 2016, the imposing 6’3″, 235-pound Swanson is an Eastern League best 5-0 with a microscopic 0.65 ERA, also tops in the league. He has yielded just two earned runs and allowed 15 hits while fanning 35 in 27 2/3 innings of work. The opposition is hitting just .161 against the 2014 eighth-round draft selection.
Yankees infielder Brendan Drury continues his major league rehabilitation assignment with Trenton after the Yankees placed him on the DL in early April with severe migraines. In four games for the Thunder, the 25-year old infielder has gone 4-for13 (.308) with a homer and two RBI. He has walked three times and struck-out six. Prior to his arrival in Trenton, Drury slashed .385/.484/.462 in eight games with the RailRiders. Jay Bell said on Monday night that he was awaiting further information as to what may come next for Drury, but had not yet received any guidance from the Yankees. Bell did say that he expected some possible clarity as to his next move on Tuesday.
“I’m waiting on some sort of e-mail or phone call or text to say whether he’s going to go with us on the road or go back to Scranton,” Bell said. “I don’t know yet. I’m anticipating I’ll hear something.”
After being placed on the seven-day DL on April 12 with a blister on his right index finger, right-hander Domingo Acevedo remains on the shelf after suffering a concussion on the team’s most recent road trip.
“He is a little bit a ways away,” said Bell of Acevedo. “I am anticipating that he is probably going to be end of the month, maybe. Somewhere around there.”
Bell said on Monday night that both Jeff Hendrix and Kyle Holder continue to work on making their way back to action down in Tampa. The Thunder manager said that Hendrix is ahead of Holder in his rehab at this juncture.
“I don’t know if he has been out in the field yet,” said Bell of Hendrix. “But, he has swung the bat in game situations.”
Bell added, “I don’t think that Holder is there yet. I think he has still got a ways to go until he is out there in the field, but I am anticipating Hendrix at some point this month.”
In six games since being sent down to Trenton from Triple-A, where he was leading the RailRiders in RBI with 14, infielder Abiatal Avelino has been a welcomed addition on both sides of the game for the Thunder. The 23-year old primary shortstop has slashed .381/.480/.667 with two homers and four RBI with four stolen bases.