TRENTON – The Thunder are rolling.
Trenton completed the sweep of the Reading Fightin Phils with a 6-3 win on Thursday night at ARM & HAMMER Park in front of 6,787. The victory was also the team’s eighth straight – making this their longest winning streak of the season.
“You know, we’re just having good at-bats,” said Thunder Manager Bobby Mitchell. “We’re taking our walks and we’re stealing bags. We’re putting a lot of pressure on the other team’s defense. I think the top of the lineup, when those guys get on, it’s going to make us being able to score runs a little easier.
“We are just putting pressure on them, you know, putting the ball in play instead of striking out. We’re doing a good job of that.”
What makes the sweep of Reading (50-33) even more impressive is that Trenton (57-28) faced two big-league pitchers on rehab assignments in this series. On Tuesday, the Fightin Phils had Jerad Eickhoff on the mound, and on Thursday it was Vince Velasquez.
“Facing a big leaguer is always a challenge and I think the guys liked that,” Mitchell said. “It makes you raise your concentration level and you go in knowing it’s going to be a challenge and you raise your game in order to succeed.”
The Thunder struck early again in this game, scoring twice in the first inning thanks to a two-run blast off the bat of third baseman Billy Fleming. Fleming turned on an 0-1 fastball and deposited it over the wall in left-center field.
“I’ve been really impressed with Billy in the four-spot,” Mitchell said of Fleming. “He’s been great hitting-wise and the plan is to just leave him there. Sometimes you put a guy in a spot like that and they rise to the occasion and I think that’s what he’s been doing.”
Jorge Mateo added another run after scoring on an RBI groundout from Tito Polo to put Trenton ahead 3-0 after three.
The lead, however, would not last as Trenton starter Dan Camarena (4.1IP, 6H, 3ER, 2BB, 2K) ran into trouble in the fifth inning after cruising through the first four. The Fightin Phils loaded the bases with no outs and knotted the score at 3-3 by the time the inning was over.
“He’s still on his way back,” Mitchell said when asked about his starter. “He started to struggle with his command there a little. But, his change-up is nasty all the time. You could see a little rustiness there when he’s pitching. He just doesn’t look like the same guy as he was last year, but he’ll make adjustments. He’s a smart pitcher and he’s very talented.”
But, as is becoming the norm this season, the Thunders’ offense responded quickly. The odd part about it in this game though, was that they did it without getting a hit.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Trenton scored three runs off of two walks and two defensive errors to take a 6-3 lead.
“We were fortunate tonight. They made some defensive mistakes,” Mitchell said. “But, like I said, if you put the ball in play good things happen. And we scored three runs off a big-league pitcher, so that’s pretty good.”
Anyelo Gomez (1-0) settled things down with two impressive innings of work out of the bullpen. Gomez did not surrender a hit or give up a walk and struck out five of the six batters he faced.
“Gomez came in and did a fantastic job. He was pretty much unhittable and he really kept us in this game,” Mitchell said. “Since he’s been here, he’s just been money – and automatic. He throws strikes, throws hard, has great stuff, keeps it down in the zone. And tonight, I thought was his best outing and I think the sky is the limit with this kid.”
Cale Coshow came in for the ninth and shut the door for his 11th save of the season.
“Cale threw great tonight too,” Mitchell said. “You know, he’s really starting to come along because he’s throwing his slider more and more for strikes. He’s not overthrowing, he’s keeping the ball down, and when he does that he’s going to be very successful. It’s good to see.”
The Thunder will now welcome New Hampshire to town on Friday. Righty Yefry Ramirez (8-3) is set to take the ball for Trenton and he will be countered by Francisco Rios (3-7). First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
“I think we’re just fortunate right now,” Mitchell added, “and things are just going our way.”
Jorge Mateo extended his season-best on-base streak to 10 and hitting streak to eight.
Thairo Estrada went 0-for-4 with an RBI on Thursday: ending his season-high 18-game hitting streak.
Tito Polo was pinch-hit for in the fifth inning by Sharif Othman because he jammed his thumb. Mitchell says Polo is day-to-day.
Starter Justus Sheffield was placed on the seven-day disabled list Thursday morning.