PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Sea Dogs (25-14) trailed after six, but used timely hitting and outstanding defense to down the Trenton Thunder (23-19) 4-3 Saturday afternoon at Hadlock Field. The win marks the fourth in seven games against the Thunder this season.
The Saturday matinee was tied at 3-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, but Portland took the lead for good courtesy of Travis Shaw.
The ‘Dogs’ first baseman stepped in 0-for-3 on the day, but worked the count full against Trenton’s Taylor Garrison (1-1). He sized up the sixth pitch of his at-bat and crushed it over the right field wall for a go-ahead solo homer, his seventh of the season.
Jose Valdez was called upon out of the bullpen for the save in the ninth inning. The big righty walked the leadoff man, hit the second batter, and an error to the third baseman loaded the bases with no outs in the inning.
Valdez battled back to strike out Ben Gamel and held a 1-2 count against Rob Refsnyder. The Thunder’s second baseman hit a 95 mph fastball on a line to the right side, which Mookie Betts snagged in the air on a full-extension dive; he then got up looked at first and fired to second in time to get the runner for the game-ending double play.
Trenton jumped out to the early lead with a two-run second and added another in the third before the Sea Dogs could respond. Peter O’Brien put the Thunder on the board with a mammoth solo home run to center off of the starter Mickey Pena. The homer for O’Brien marked his 15th of 2014 and his fifth in seven games with Trenton.
Tyler Austin and Dan Fiorito followed with back-to-back doubles and made it 2-0 after the second. In the next inning, two singles and a fly out put runners at the corners with one out for Gary Sanchez. The designated hitter lofted one to center and plated Ben Gamel on the sacrifice fly, which upped the advantage to 3-0.
Portland was forced to mount a comeback and began doing so in the bottom of the third against Trenton’s Eric Ruth. Derrik Gibson worked a leadoff walk and moved to third on Shannon Wilkerson’s double to left. Mookie Betts hit an RBI groundout and Deven Marrero hit an RBI triple that pulled the ‘Dogs to within one at 3-2.
Neither starter would factor into the decision as Ruth was lifted in his Double-A debut after four and two-third innings. He gave up the two runs on three hits, two walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts.
Pena departed his eighth start with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth and handed the reigns to Robby Scott. The southpaw bailed out the starter and kept it a 3-2 game with a strikeout and a groundout. Pena finished allowing the three runs on seven hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
The Sea Dogs rallied to tie it against the Thunder bullpen with a run in the seventh. Heiker Meneses drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt that turned into an unsuccessful fielder’s choice and put two on. Wilkerson bunted the pair to second and third with one out. Betts followed and drove home his second run of the game with a ground out to short and tied the game at 3-3.
Scott (5-1) earned his league-high fifth win of the season with his two and two-third scoreless innings and Valdez picked up his third save. Betts went 0-for-4 at the plate with 2RBI and the tremendous game-ending double play in the field, but did not reach base, thus his streak ends at 66 games.
The Sea Dogs and Thunder get set for the finale of their three game series Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM from Hadlock Field. RHP Mike Augliera (2-4, 4.53) looks to right the ship and will be up against LHP Jeremy Bleich (3-3, 4.36) of the Thunder. Radio coverage begins at 12:40 PM on the WPEI U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network and www.seadogs.com. MILB.TV coverage begins at 12:55 p.m.