Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Role reversal

A year ago tomorrow, the Thunder took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning at Harrisburg, needing only three more outs for their first win of the season. They couldn't get those three outs then, or in the 10th inning when Caonabo Cosme hit a home run to put the Thunder back ahead. They wound up losing 2-1, the sixth of their 10 straight losses to open the season.

I remember heading down to the sardine can that passes for the visitor's clubhouse at Commerce Bank Park (Harrisburg's stadium) about 10 minutes after that game and seeing Justin Christian sitting on the dugout bench, staring towards right field in disbelief that they could lose again.

A couple of hours ago at Waterfront Park, Christian and the Thunder switched roles with the Senators. It was Harrisburg that was looking for its first win and came within three outs (two, actually, this time) of getting it. And it was the Thunder who played spoiler, with Christian tying the game with a one-out, two-run single in the ninth, and Matt Carson winning it with a bases loaded single in the 12th.

While Brett Smith wasn't great in his Double-A debut, he kept his team in the game. And the bullpen was phenomenal. After the Senators scored an insurance run in the seventh to go up 4-2, Jeff Kennard, Gerardo Casadiego, and Scott Patterson combined to retire the last 15 Harrisburg batters. The five Thunder pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts, and the entire pitching staff has 54 strikeouts in the first four games against only seven walks. It was obvious for months that pitching would be the strength of this team, but those numbers are still impressive, especially early in the season.

The Thunder will complete their first turn through the rotation tomorrow when Jason Jones faces Harrisburg's Anastacio Martinez. Interesting subplot here - Martinez was one of the Red Sox top prospects earlier this decade and came to Trenton in 2002 (its last year as Boston's Double-A affiliate), but had a miserable season with a 5-12 record and a 5.31 ERA.

More tomorrow.

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