TRENTON, N.J. – It was nearly two hours after the final out of the sixth inning, and Portland Sea Dogs manager Billy McMillon sat in the coaches office at Arm & Hammer Park, still trying piece together how the Trenton Thunder were able to put up a “5” in that column of the left-field scoreboard.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said McMillon, surrounded by his coaching staff. “We’re trying to wrap our heads around what happened and why it happened, so we can address it. That’s just kind of baseball, I guess.” Trenton’s big sixth inning turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead, and they held on to win, 6-4, and spoil a Sea Dogs sweep in New Jersey’s state capital in front of 5,520 fans.
“The guys played well (all series), and we even had an opportunity today before that sixth inning to get this ballgame,” McMillon said. “I commend the guys for playing well on this trip, especially given (Saturday’s) day-night doubleheader.”
A two-run, second inning single by Bo Greenwell and fourth inning RBI double by just-promoted third baseman Jonathan Roof staked Sea Dogs starter Mickey Pena to a 3-1 lead heading into the fateful frame. By the time the inning was over, the Thunder had sent ten men to the plate and knocked Pena out of the game.
With the top of Trenton’s order up, Pena quickly ran into trouble by allowing back-to-back singles by Mason Williams and Ben Gamel, which was followed by a walk to Tyler Austin to load the bases for prized Yankees prospect Gary Sanchez with no outs. McMillon gave Pena the hook in favor of right-handed reliever Matty Ott, but things only got worse from there.
After fouling off four straight two-strike pitches, Sanchez smacked a single to left field to score Williams and Gamel and even the score at 3-3. RBI singles off the bats of Peter O’Brien, Taylor Dugas and Dan Fiorito – all off of Ott – ultimately gave the Thunder a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
To their credit, Portland made things interesting in the ninth inning. With former Washington Nationals reliever Cole Kimball on the mound to close the game out for the Thunder, Keury De La Cruz reached on a double and Roof walked, earning Kimball the hook in favor of Tyler Webb. Webb promptly walked Greenwell, loading the bases for red-hot Mookie Betts, who recorded six hits in the doubleheader.
But while Betts popped out on the first pitch, Deven Marrero kept the rally alive with a hard-hit single through the right side that scored De La Cruz to cut the deficit to just two runs. Three-hole hitter Stefan Welch came up with a chance to tie the game, but Webb recovered to strike him out and seal the series-salvaging win for Trenton.
“I expect all those guys to come through,” McMillon said. “Welchie has been big for us at times this year, just like everybody else. So had he gotten a hit, it would not have surprised anybody on our team.”