PORTLAND, Maine — Juan Carlos Linares gave the Portland Sea Dogs just the spark they needed to reverse their early-season struggles when he launched the first pitch from Binghamton’s Collin McHugh over the center field fence in Thursday night’s home opener.
Unfortunately for the Sea Dogs, they were already in a 2-0 hole when Linares stepped to the plate, and McHugh wasn’t intent on letting them get closer.
McHugh scattered seven hits in 6 2/3 innings and Binghamton handed Portland its seventh loss in eight games to start the season with a 5-1 victory before an announced crowd of 5,227 in the Sea Dogs’ 19th home opener at Hadlock Field.
Portland outhit Binghamton, 9-7, but the Mets made the most of two bases loaded opportunities against Sea Dogs starter Brock Huntzinger, while Portland squandered a golden opportunity shortly after Linares’ homer.
“McHugh did a nice job,” Portland manager Kevin Boles said. “He was able to pitch inside with his fastball for affect, and then with his change-of-pace, with that real slow breaking ball, we kind of chased it out of the zone tonight.”
Portland loaded the bases with one out in the first, but McHugh fanned Oscar Tejeda swinging then got Dan Butler to ground out to short.
McHugh (6 Ks, zero walks) gave up a hit in each of the next two innings, then retired the next 10 in a row. Elvin Ramirez and Josh Edgin followed with 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief.
Huntzinger (4 IP, 6 hits, 5 ER 3 Ks, 3 BB) lost command after retiring the first two batters of the game, loading the bases on two walks and a single. Jefry Marte lined a two-run single to left-center to put the Mets on top, 2-0.
“I was throwing the ball up,” Huntzinger said. “On the walks, the ball was up. I shot myself in the foot tonight, no doubt about that.”
Binghamton (3-3) loaded the bases again to start the third. After a shallow fly out to right, Huntzinger got Marte to tap a grounder between third and short which the Sea Dogs were only able to turn into a force play at second. Josh Rodriguez followed with a two-run double over Linares’ head in center to make it 5-1.
The ground ball “was just in the right spot,” Boles said. “It was in the five/six hole and it just came off the end [of the bat]. It was one of those unfortunate things where a pitcher makes a pitch and he wasn’t rewarded for it.”
Jeremy Kehrt (4 IP, 4 Ks, 1 H) and Josh Fields combined for five innings of shutout relief for Portland.
Linares and Heiker Meneses had two hits apiece to lead Portland offensively. Kolbrin Vitek had a double.
The homestand continues Friday night against the Mets. Game time is 6 p.m.
To see more from the Sun Journal visit sunjournal.com