Saturday, June 7, 2008

Offense has gone lost in New Jersey

The Trenton Thunder scored a 4-0 win over the Reading Phillies at Waterfront Park last night, again getting solid starting pitching and just enough hitting to win.

Phil Coke was on a pitch count because he was pitching on three days' rest after an appearance at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier this week. He pitched well enough to keep Reading off the board, but was not fantastic. He gave up a few solid hits, although he was able to tightrope out of danger.

His counterpart, J.D. Durbin, was not quite as fortunate, lasting until the seventh inning after Trenton catcher P.J. Pilittere slammed a two-run double to the gap in right-center. For more on Durbin, check out my story.

The Thunder and Phillies complete the series tomorrow, and the offense just hasn't been there so far. The teams have combined for seven runs in 18 full innings. Part of that has been because of the pitching. Jason Jones is the Eastern League's leader in wins, Antonio Bastardo had a great performance last night, Coke was just coming down from Triple-A and Durbin has hardly been touched since asking for demotion to Reading.

The Trenton bullpen has also been solid. Mark Melancon, who my Trentonian colleague Josh Norris believes will be in Scranton soon, was very strong in the closer role. He's pitched well out of the bullpen since coming up from Tampa.

It appears that's just the kind of team Tony Franklin has. The Thunder will play a lot of close games, and because of their pitching, they'll win a good chunk of them.

Around the Eastern League, the Thunder increased their lead because Portland somehow found a way to blow a 10-run lead. That is not a misprint. The Sea Dogs, playing at Hadlock Field, led the Akron Aeros 10-0 after five innings and lost 11-10. Trenton now leads the EL North by four games.

Around the rest of the North, the Binghamton Mets stayed hot, blanking the New Britain Rock Cats 3-0 at home. The B-Mets keep inching closer to the Sea Dogs, but haven't gained anything on Trenton. The Connecticut Defenders picked themselves up with a 5-2 win at Altoona, and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats stayed consistent with a 3-1 home loss to the Erie Seawolves. It's a good thing the 2008 Eastern League All-Star game will be played in Manchester, N.H., because that's the only chance Fisher Cats fans will have to see good baseball.

Finally, Bowie crushed Harrisburg 13-2 to increase its lead to 1 1/2 games. The Aeros trail the Senators by a mere half-game now for second behind the Baysox.

That's all for tonight. I've got an American Legion game in Trenton, we'll see how that goes.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Rachel Proctor.

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's time to return

So I don't have to do this as a class anymore. And now that I've had some time away from it, I think it might be fun to do this when I want to and not because I have to do it. So, I'm back.

Now that I don't have to do this as a class, I've got freedom to write what I want, when I want, all of that. To be honest, the Big 12 bit really sucked some life out of me. It's a good idea to talk about, but it's not a lot of fun for me to write. Roberto Ruiz can do a better job, and since it's his idea, probably should have been the one to do it all along. Maybe I'll revisit the rest of the Big 12, but for now, it's nice to let it alone.

What I really want to talk about is what I'm getting credit to write about at The Trentonian. So I'll take a page out of Will Palaszczuk's blog Friend of the Feather, which now has his radio calls, and I'll talk about the games I cover, starting with tonight's Trenton Thunder (Yankees AA affiliate) game.

Jason Jones, who you can read more about here, pitched pretty well. He did allow five hits and walked two, but that's pretty solid through six innings. Basically, he kept the Thunder in the game for as long as he pitched.

But while he was doing that, Antonio Bastardo of the Reading Phillies was busy walking hitters and retiring those he didn't walk. He walked six in 6 1/3, but he didn't give up a hit. If he had some solid run support backing him up, he'd have been a deserving winner.

On another note, one thing he's not is blessed by his name. His name literally translates to Anthony Bastard from Spanish to English. Good thing for him he can pitch well.

Back to the Thunder. After getting no hits through 7 2/3, Trenton finally broke through on a nice double down the right field line by Ramiro Peña that scored Reegie Corona (who of course reached on a walk). Austin Jackson then followed with a sacrifice fly to right field, which scored Peña after he took third on a ball that Phillies catcher Lou Marson had to block. Trenton manager Tony Franklin labeled that as a big play. Line for the Thunder tonight: Two runs, one hit, one victory. As Franklin said, it's a strange game.

Tomorrow's game, which I will be at Waterfront Park for, features two pitchers going in different directions. For the Thunder, Phil Coke is slated to throw tomorrow in his return from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Coke's a lefty with a 4-1 record and a 3.41 ERA in 11 starts at Trenton. On Tuesday, he made his first appearance for Scranton and got hit hard, giving up eight hits and three runs in three innings of work. Not great, so he's back in New Jersey. But given how Coke's improved, that game might just be a blip on the radar for him.

He'll face J.D. Durbin, whose career is going south in a hurry, or to be geographically accurate from Philadelphia, went slightly north to Allentown, Pa., then southwest to Reading. Durbin began the year at Class AAA Lehigh Valley and got shelled. In nine games with the IronPigs, Durbin's ERA was 9.42. It was no surprise that he was sent down to Reading, where his ERA has improved, but his win total hasn't. Durbin's 0-7 overall (0-2 with Reading) this year. I'll see what he's got to say tomorrow.

Here's your Eastern League wrap-up for June 6. I'll try to put this feature in whenever I post, whether I had the Thunder game that night or not. It was a good night for Trenton. The Akron Aeros (Indians affiliate) went to Portland, Maine and knocked off the Sea Dogs (Red Sox affiliate) 6-1, giving the Thunder a three game edge in the EL North. The Sea Dogs are four up on the Binghamton Mets for the #2 spot in the North. The B-Mets were the only other North team to win tonight, beating the New Britain Rock Cats (Twins affiliate) with two runs in the eighth.

In the EL South, the Bowie Baysox (Orioles) caught the Harrisburg Senators (Nationals) by scoring eight in the final two innings for a 9-2 win at Commerce Bank Park (not the same one) in Harrisburg, Pa. Bowie now leads the South by a half-game over Harrisburg. The aforementioned Aeros are very much in the race as well, lurking two games back of the Baysox. Of the other three EL South teams, only the Altoona Curve (Pirates) are within 10 games of Bowie.

My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Skillet.