(Reading, PA) - Alex Rodriguez slugged his first home run since last September, then the Thunder rallied for three two-out ninth inning runs to come from behind and stun the Reading Fightin Phils, 6-5, Monday night at FirstEnergy Stadium in the opener of a three-game series.
Rodriguez played seven innings and batted 2-for-4 with a two-run blast, an infield single and a strikeout. He also successfully completed four defensive putouts at third base. The Yankees' slugger is expected to play another seven or eight innings Tuesday night.
Slade Heathcott and Jose Pirela picked up back-to-back RBI hits with the squad down to its final out in the ninth as the Thunder won for the seventh time in nine games, including five straight against Reading.
With Trenton trailing 4-3 in the ninth, leadoff batter Cody Grice reached on Reading third-baseman Maikel Franco's throwing error. After a lineout, Ramon Flores reached on an infield single to put runners on first and second. Fightin Phils pitcher Mike Nesseth (1-2) then induced a fielder's choice from Casey Stevenson to leave runners on the corners.
Heathcott then grounded an RBI single through the right side to tie the score at 4. Pirela followed with a hard grounder past third base into the left field corner, scoring both Stevenson and Heathcott with the go-ahead runs.
Tommy Kahnle allowed a two-out run in the bottom of the ninth on Cesar Hernandez's RBI single. Franco's single and Kahnle's subsequent wild pitch left the tying run at third and the winning run at second. The closer then got Jim Murphy to ground out to third however to end the game and notch his 11th save of the season.
Reading took a 4-1 lead after four innings paced by three two-out first inning tallies against Trenton starter Nik Turley. But Rodriguez struck in the fifth against Fightin Phils' hurler Austin Wright, following Flores' leadoff walk with a mammoth no-doubt shot to left. It was his first longball since September 14, 2012.
Danny Burawa (3-2) tossed a perfect eighth inning to record the win. Flores and Andrew Clark joined A-Rod as Thunder players with two hits.
The second of the three-game series is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6:05 pm. Thunder left-hander Fred Lewis (0-4, 2.70) is expected to pitch against Reading All-Star right-hander Seth Rosin (6-4, 4.13). Radio coverage on 91.3 FM (WTSR), 1490 AM (WBCB) and also streaming online begins at 5:50 pm.