Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thunder top Altoona and Gerrit Cole

TRENTON — The strategy to employ when facing a pitcher of Gerrit Cole’s caliber is simply to try to keep it close until you get a crack at the bullpen. And after six innings at Cole’s mercy, that’s exactly what the Thunder did in their 2-1 win over the Altoona Curve on an exquisite Tuesday evening at Waterfront Park.
Cole, the Yankees’ unsigned first-rounder from 2008, dissected the Thunder for the game’s first two thirds. They had three hits to show for their effort, singles from Melky Mesa and David Adams and a double from Rob Segedin.

He finished with six strikeouts over as many innings, walked one, threw 53 of his 82 pitches for strikes and had scouts in the stands marveling at how a pitcher with his stuff — upper-90s gas, low-90s two-seamer and a filthy slider — could possibly have an ERA of near 5.00. The coup de grace came in the fifth, when Cole froze Thunder catcher J.R. Murphy on a heater over the outside corner that cracked 100 miles per hour. On the other side, Thunder starter Brett Marshall, a pitcher with a decidedly lower profile whom the Yankees selected five picks after Cole in the 2008 draft, was more than up to the challenge. And although his stuff wasn’t nearly as flashy, he mixed in enough sinkers and sliders to keep the Curve beating the ball into the ground. His only mistake came in the second inning, when Oscar Tejeda – whom the Pirates picked up on waivers after the Red Sox DFAed him earlier this season — reached Marshall for a solo home run into the wall of advertising in left field. With Cole vanquished in the seventh, it didn’t take long for the Thunder to strike against Altoona’s bullpen. Zoilo Almonte pounced on Hunter Strickland’s first offering for a solo home run to quickly even the score and render Cole’s effort irrelevant. Melky Mesa and Luke Murton then reached on an error and an infield single, and Mesa scored the eventual winning run on J.R. Murphy’s sac fly to medium center field. Kelvin Perez wiggled in and out of trouble for two innings before yielding the hill to Ryan Pope, who earned the save by stranding the tying run on second base.


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