The silver anniversary World Series of World ARod was a fantastic matchup, featuring a playoff tested team in Trenton, who has gone to the post season 7 of the last 10 seasons and who has been a legit contender for some time. The Thunder would be making their third World Series appearance, looking for their first title. Philly’s appearance in the post season was their first in 9 seasons. Until the Colonials knocked off Texas in the DCS, the franchise had never won a post season series. They had the finest season in their 25 seasons in the league, winning 100 games for the first time ever. In game one, the battle tested playoff vets came out of the gate strong as the Thunder post 5 runs in the second off Clarence “Nat King” Coleman. Victor Morales drove in 2 with a triple. Philly could have been suffering from first-time jitters, or more likely, suffering under the spell of ace Karl Hurst. Hursty surrendered a lone hit over shutout innings six innings against the red-hot Philly line-up to strike first. In game 2, it was Philly’s turn to strike first, as any speculative disadvantage of inexperience was put to rest when veteran Santos Torres went deep with a three run blast off Pat “Puffy” Combs. Gary “The King” Pressley pitched tough all day, helping his squad even the series at a game apiece with the 8-1 win. Pressley goes 6 innings, giving up no runs on two hits, striking out 7, while notching his 4th win of the post season. In game 3, Trenton roughs up veteran starter Rob Cormier for 7 runs in three-and-a-third innings. Nick Jacquez had a pair of 2-run bombs in the process. Placido Balentien pitches his third consecutive playoff start in which he allowed 2 runs or fewer in earning the 10-1 win that tilts the series in Trenton’s direction. With the prospect of facing Karl Hurst again in game 4 and going down 3-1, the Colonials play “check mate” once again and get on the board early. Torres gets an RBI single in the 1st and Donn Jones delivers a bases clearing triple in the second to stake Philly to a four-nil lead. The game would get to 5-o before Clarence Coleman, who didn’t have his best stuff, gave up a pair of two run homers (Ariel Rosa & Jon Hamelin) to cut the lead to 5-4. Ricky Mullin came out of the Trenton pen to pick up Hurst nicely, going 2-and-two-thirds of no-hit shutout relief, to give his team a chance to come back. And come back they did, courtesy of a huge 2-out RBI double from Nick Jacquez off of closer Cesar Mesa (35 saves.) Mesa was able to end out of the inning without further damage, which helped set up the dramatic finish. Trenton’s closer Charles Chen (36 saves) comes into the tie game and retires the first two men of the inning. Gio Cabeza bounces once over the mound that goes into center for a single that many felt Chen should have been able to stab for the third out. That enables Joba “The Hutt” Zeigler to be the hero, as he blasts the walk off homer that evens the see-saw series at 2 each. Game 5 is a rematch of game 2’s starters, Pressley and Combs. “Puffy” would not suffer the same fate this time around as he out duels (and out hits) “The King” in one of the great pitcher’s duel of all time. With so much at stake, both aces bring their A games. Each hurler goes 8 innings, Pressley giving up just a solo shot to Victor Morales in the second, and a two-out RBI single to his counterpart Combs, on a pitch I’m sure he would like to have back. Combs pitched even better, surrendering just a single hit through his eight scoreless frames. Closer Chen walks the tightrope in the ninth, putting the tying run on second with only one out, but escapes the jam and redeems himself by securing the 2-1 W. If the Colonials were to stave off elimination, they would have to count on being able to get to Balentien, who befuddled them in game 3, and count on Rob Cormier redeeming himself for his poor outing in the same game. They do get to Balentien, scoring in four of the first 6 innings in building a 6-2 lead. Santos Torres get another big “score-first” RBI and Geoffrey “Opie” Cunningham hits a solo homer and delivers and RBI double. Cormier again is not sharp, as he surrenders 10 base runners over 5 innings, but proves his worth as a wily vet by pitching out of multiple jams. He leaves 10 Thunder on base over his 5 frames, including leaving them loaded twice. Nick Jacquez and Ober Furcal each hit solo homeruns in the ninth, but they’re not enough as Philly forces a game 7 with the 7-4 victory. For the Thunder in game 7, maybe it was the prospect of being labeled ARod’s version of the Buffalo Bills in getting to the Series thrice without winning it, or maybe it was that their hearts grew three sizes that day. But whatever it was, it worked, as they storm out in front with 6 runs in the third off Coleman, who didn’t quite seem up for the task of pitching on three-day’s rest. Jacquez blasts a 2-run shot (his 8th of the playoffs), Furcal adds a solo shot, and Ariel Rosa delivers a 2-run triple in the big inning. Karl Hurst handled the task of throwing on three-days rest just fine, thank you very much, as he throws 6 no-hit innings in the series clinching 8-1 win.
Congratulations to Philadelphia for an amazing, entertaining ride of a season. Their building blocks in Cunningham, Jones, and Pressley have not even reached arbitration yet. There will be many more terrific seasons to come! Great job turning that lowly franchise into a legit championship contender. There were lots of shrewd moves over the past several seasons that helped to create this beast of a team. Best of luck in your title run next season!
Congratulations to Trenton for finally securing the title they deserve. The team was built with balance in mind, as they play all aspects of the game the right way. The team led the league in OBP, which is critical to support the sluggers Nick Jacquez and John Suzuki. Thusly, the offense scored the 2nd most runs in the AL. They finished third in pitching (ERA and runs against) with that three-headed beast at the top of the rotation. They were first in team fielding percentage, were 5th in “plus” plays and 3rd in fewest “minus” plays, which only strengthens the “beast.” The team was built heavily through the international market (see Suzuki, John), but many other shrewd moves contributed to the team’s legacy. Karl Hurst was inherited, but Combs came in via free agency and Balentien through a trade. Jacquez was drafted, as was Jon Hemelin (at 20th overall, if you believe it!) This is a classic lesson in building a winner. Congrats again 50, fantastic job!