Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thunder drop another as lead shrinks

For The Trentonian
TRENTON — It was billed as a potential pitchers’ duel, but only one half of the marquee matchup showed up.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, it was the wrong half. Starter Brett Marshall, who by nearly every measure has been the Thunder’s best pitcher this season, continued his recent downward trend in a 5-0 loss to the Altoona Curve Tuesday night at Waterfront Park. Altoona’s Jameson Taillon—widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball—was solid in his Double A debut, striking out six in five scoreless innings.
The loss was the tail-spinning Thunder’s 11th in the past 14 games.
“I expect more,” said a visibly upset Tony Franklin after the game. “I expect a lot more than what happened out there tonight. If we continue to play that way, I don’t expect us to win a game.”
Taillon, a 6-foot-6 righty out of Texas, was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft and showed why, with a fastball in the upper 90s and a changeup that was, at times, devastating. The Thunder did manage a couple of sharply hit balls, but were victims of the type of bad luck that haunts struggling teams.
“Not getting hit in the butt on that line drive,” Taillon cracked when asked if his outing could have possibly gotten any better, referring to a second-inning Addison Maruszak single. “It was definitely a good first start for me.”
The Curve struck first in the first inning, when first baseman Matt Curry singled home Adalberto Santos, and added a pair in the third when Curry stroked an RBI double to right. In the fourth, Santos grounded into what looked like a sure inning-ending double play to second baseman Walter Ibarra, but Maruszak had trouble on the transfer, allowing Quincy Latimore to score.
The Thunder got Zoilo Almonte to third in fourth inning, but that threat was undermined when Luke Murton was thrown out at second. Maruszak then flied out to end the inning.
“I made a mistake on the base path tonight that shouldn’t happen,” Murton said. “It was a mental mistake. We can all look at ourselves and see things we shouldn’t be doing.”
Trenton managed just four hits off Taillon, who threw just 67 pitches. Marshall ended up allowing four earned runs on 10 hits in six innings of work. No Thunder player recorded multiple hits in the game.
Hunter Strickland relieved Taillon in the sixth, and promptly gave up a single and two walks to load the bases. Murton, however, then grounded into a double play, killing the Thunder’s best chance of the evening.
“We needed a big hit there,” Franklin said. “We need something to spark us. We can’t be wishy-washy about it. We need to look in the mirror and say ‘I’m gonna be the guy to get it done today.’ Right now, we don’t have that person.”
Strickland then settled down, posting scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth. Victor Black closed the door for the Curve.
Francisco Rondon pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of Marshall, giving up a run. Jon Meloan struck out Stefan Welch for the last Altoona out.
The Thunder will try to bounce back in game two of the series, sending Dellin Betances to the mound against Gerrit Cole in a 12:05 start at Waterfront.
“It comes down to this: either we are going to be a better team or we’re not,” Franklin said. “If we play better we’ll be better, but we can’t continue to make mistakes like that. Inexcusable.”


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