Leaky bullpen sinks Portland Sea Dogs once more; team drops series opener to Trenton Thunder, 7-5
The Portland Sea Dogs came up just shy of breaking their losing streak on Monday night. Photo courtesy of rukkus.com

Entering the season, the Portland Sea Dogs' manager Carlos Febles told reporters that the bullpen would be a strength this season. He mentioned that he had four pitchers who could potentially close out games for his squad. Either he was wrong, or he just picked the wrong pitcher to close out what would have been a 5-4 victory for his team on Monday night.

Instead of walking away with their second victory on the homestand, the Sea Dogs gave up three runs in the ninth inning and lost their fourth straight game, 7-5 to the Trenton Thunder.  The bullpen has, rather than being a strength for the 'Dogs, been a disaster on this opening homestand. After Monday's performance, their bullpen is  0-3 with a 5.76 ERA. They have also converted zero of two save opportunities.  

Thunder chip away at Justin Haley

Portland starter Justin Haley did not enter Monday's game with a good track record against the Thunder. He was 0-3 for his career in five starts against the AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. Haley looked good at first, staying out of trouble for the first three innings. He surrendered just two hits over the first three frames. However, the Sea Dogs could not provide support, and Haley entered the fourth inning in a tie game. 

Dustin Fowler, who was 3-3 against Haley during the game, singled to lead off the inning. He promptly scored on an RBI double by Tyler Austin. Haley contained the damage as best he could, but Austin would score on a single from Dan Fiorito. The Thunder added one more in the fifth inning on back to back doubles from Jake Cave and Dustin Fowler for a 3-0 lead. 

Sea Dogs bounce back with a big inning

The Portland Sea Dogs do not have power hitters on their team. In fact, in their starting lineup on Monday night, there had been a combined one home run hit among the nine players. So the Sea Dogs don't score with a bang. So they have to rely on consistent hitting, stringing together singles and doubles to pick up their runs. using this classic small-ball style, the Sea Dogs scratched out five runs which was almost enough for victory. 

After being handcuffed by Trenton starter Brady Lail for five innings, the Sea Dogs broke through with a five-run fifth inning using four hits, three of which were singles.

A slumping Derek Miller started the rally with a single and a stolen base. Wendell Rijo, the lone starter who has gone yard this season, drew a one-out walk. Cole Sturgeon singled to load the bases. Rainel Rosario poked a single through the infield for a run, and Aneury Tavarez drew a walk to score another.

With the score 3-2, the Sea Dogs got their lone extra base hit of the inning, a huge double from Jordan Betts. Betts' double hit the base of the wall and scored all three runners for a 5-3 lead. Lail exited the game in favor of Jonathan Holder who retired the next two batters. 

Portland's leaky bullpen springs another hole

Portland got solid relief from Mike McCarthy after Haley exited. Haley went five innings, surrendering three runs. It wasn't a terrible start, but certainly not his best outing. McCarthy put in some solid work for the Sea Dogs, going 2 2/3 innings. He did surrender an eighth inning run - after a sacrifice fly from Austin - but he was still in line for the win entering the ninth inning.

Febles made the call for Rob Wort in the eighth inning to retire the last batter and then sent him back out there for the ninth ining. Wort put himself in immediate trouble, allowing a single and a walk, sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt.

Another walk loaded the bases for Jake Cave, who had already picked up two extra-base hits on the day. He didn't need an extra-base hit this time, fouling off several full count pitches before rolling a two-run single up the middle. A sacrifice fly brought one more run across the plate, giving Trenton a 7-5 lead they would barely keep. 

Miraculous defensive play dooms Sea Dogs

Portland didn't quit after their bullpen imploded in the ninth inning. An error put Jordan Weems on first base, advancing to second on a single by Ali Solis. Miller dropped a sacrifice bunt down the third base line to put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Tzu-Wei Lin put up a good battle but ultimately struck out against Trenton reliever Mark Montgomery. 

It came down to a battle between Montgomery and Rijo. To add suspense to the situation, Rijo was the one player who had hit a home run this season. Rijo didn't hit a dinger this time, but he almost tied the game. He sent a scorching line drive towards the left field wall. After initially taking a step in, Jake Cave scrambled back and made a leaping catch, snagging the ball in snowcone-style, the ball barely staying in his glove as he took a few steps to balance himself. 

Quick hits

The Sea Dogs dropped their fourth straight game and fall to 1-4 at home. They did get two hits apiece from Sturgeon and Rosario, plus the 3 RBI from Betts. However, that was about the extent of Portland's offense. Trenton received three-hit days from both Cave and Fowler, as well as two hits from Fiorito. Holder picked up his first win of the season, firing 2 2/3 shutout innings, striking out a whopping 6 batters. Montgomery picked up his third save of the season. The two teams meet again tomorrow at 6pm.