HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — The Portland Sea Dogs came back from a 4-1 deficit to down the Harrisburg Senators 5-4 in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night at Metro Bank Park.
The Sea Dogs clinched a playoff spot in the second inning when New Britain’s loss to Richmond was complete. It’s Portland’s eighth berth in franchise history and first since 2008.
Portland had climbed its way out of an early deficit and took a 4-4 tie into the top of the eighth inning. Neil Holland was working in his second inning and he retired the first man he faced on a strikeout before facing the reigning Eastern League Player of the Week, Keury De La Cruz. The designated hitter crushed a homer to right, on an 0-2 pitch and put Portland in front 5-4.
Pete Ruiz was in his second full inning of work and was in position for the win in the bottom of the eighth. The righty got the first two men he faced before he allowed a single and a walk, ending his night.
Noe Ramirez relieved and got out of the jam with a fly-out to right off the bat of Brian Jeroloman. Ramirez backed that up with a scoreless ninth and locked in his 14th save of the season.
Portland scored a lone run in the top half of the first when Michael Almanzar drove home Mike Miller from third on a fielder’s choice against the Senators’ righty Austin Voth.
Luis Diaz was on the mound for Portland and ran into big trouble in the home half of the inning. The righty retired the first two batters he faced, but gave up a single to Cutter Dykstra, which fired up a rally. Matt Skole singled and Kevin Keyes walked to load the bases in front of Jason Martinson. The shortstop launched a grand slam to right on a 3-2 pitch and put Harrisburg in front 4-1.
The Sea Dogs began their comeback with another pair of runs in the fourth. Carson Blair led off with a single to center and Stefan Welch followed with a two-run homer right field, his sixth and first since June 17th, which made it 4-3 and ended Voth’s night.
Paul Demney relieved and he was scoreless through his first two innings, but could not escape his third unscathed. Carson Blair stepped in with one out and crushed a solo homer, his first career Double-A blast, tying the game at 4-4.
Diaz settled in after the first and weaved his way through the next 4 ⅔ innings in scoreless fashion before exiting in the sixth. Ruiz came on in the two-on, two-out jam and induced a groundout to first to end the threat.
Diaz gave up the four runs, all earned, on six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts in 5 ⅔ innings. Ruiz (3-1) took home the win with two innings of scoreless work.
Voth lasted just three-plus and gave up three runs on six hits, a walk and one strikeout. Demny worked three innings in relief, allowing a run on two hits, a walk and two strikeouts.