With Double-A Trenton on the brink of a semifinal series win, Thairo Estrada played a key role in finishing it off.
The rehabbing Yankees infielder picked up three hits and five RBIs and scored twice as the Thunder rolled past Reading, 12-2, at Arm & Hammer Park, to complete a three-game sweep and advance to the Eastern League Championship Series.
Video: Estrada's two-run double for Trenton
"Reading has a really good club, the last thing I ever would have guessed that this series would have ended in a sweep -- them sweeping us or us sweeping them," Trenton manager Pat Osborn said. "But I think the way the first two games unfolded and kinda the way we won those two really put us in a position to do what we did tonight. ... The boys really came after it and got after it after pitch one and really made a statement there in the first three innings."
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Estrada was sidelined on Aug. 18 when he landed on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. He started his rehab assignment Friday and was joined by pitchers Luis Severino and Dellin Betances. The big club has 92 wins and is on the verge of an AL East title, so Osborn said the trio getting an early taste of postseason action might have been beneficial for the group before it rejoins the Yankees down the stretch.
"I made a comment to someone before the game that having those guys coming into this environment, it may be productive for them on their way back to the big leagues," Osborn said. "Playing in some exciting baseball and some meaningful baseball, because that's what they're about to walk into in New York.
"Having them be part of this club, having the younger guys watch these guys go about their business and how they prepare with their professionalism and how they go about it the way they go about it, not only did they help us win the game but, hopefully, our guys picked something up that they can take on with them throughout their careers. ... I'd love to welcome them back if they need to make another appearance."
All three chipped in, with Estrada doing the work on the offensive side. He smacked a one-out single to right in the first inning and scored the game's first run when second-ranked Phillies prospect Adonis Medina (0-1) made an errant pickoff throw. An inning later, he went to the opposite field again and doubled in two runs to chase the right-hander.
In the third inning, Estrada singled up the middle against reliever Grant Dyer to produce three more runs and give the Thunder a 9-1 cushion. He walked in the fifth and was replaced by pinch-runner Diego Castillo. Eight of Trenton's nine starters picked up at least one hit as the team totaled 16.
"In this game you always hear hitting is contagious and that does seem to be true," Osborn said. "Tonight, it definitely showed up in our game. It got started right away and really continued really to the end of the game. Everyone contributed, the boys went in there and were aggressive against a good pitcher in Adonis Medina."
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On the mound, Severino went three-plus innings, allowed a run on five hits and struck out five. He's logged four frames in his rehab assignment after pitching one inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. Betances hit a batter, walked another and recorded a strikeout in a scoreless fifth. Five relievers combined to yield a run on a hit and three walks with 10 punchouts over six innings.
"Sevy was great. He was really, really good -- really strong. The ball was coming out really easy and the command was really good," Osborn said. "He had really good misses in the strike zone when he did miss. [Matt Wivinis] comes in to clean up the inning before we got to Betances and he does a heck of a job. Dellin looked really, really good, his first time in a real game situation. Albert Abreu was fantastic, probably one of the better outings he's had all year; it was dominant.
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"Brooks Kriske and Daniel Alvarez, who had been two of our main pieces in the back of the bullpen all year, in a typical game where they wouldn't pitch. But we wanted them to be part of the celebration and they shut the door. It was complete team effort with an assist with a couple of New York Yankees."
Medina lasted 1 1/3 innings and was charged with five runs on eight hits. Eighth-ranked Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak collected two hits and scored a run for Reading.
In other Eastern League playoff action:
Baysox 7, Senators 5
Anderson Feliz crushed two homers and drove in five runs over the first two innings to power Bowie to a 2-1 series lead over Harrisburg. In the first, he swatted a two-run shot off Mario Sanchez (0-1) over the right-field wall and followed it up the next frame with a three-run shot against the right-hander that cleared the right-center field fence. Fifth-ranked Orioles prospect Yusniel Diaz, Cedric Mullins and Preston Palmeiro each chipped in two hits. No. 10 Baltimore prospect Zac Lowther (1-0) went 6 1/3 innings, allowing a run on five hits and four walks while fanning five. Gameday box score