A Minor Diversion
Saturday, July 16, 2011 – Hadlock Field, Portland
Rock Cats 5, Sea Dogs 4
While the Red Sox took on the Rays in their first series after the All-Star break, I traveled to Portland, Maine, for my annual look at the Double A affiliate Sea Dogs. My family jokes that we know what day it’s going to rain based on when we have our Sea Dogs tickets, because it seems like every time I go there’s some sort of delay, if not an outright cancellation. But this year surprised us all with beautiful weather, a perfect night for baseball. I guess I was due for one eventually!
We were even more surprised when we saw the hideous special uniforms that the Sea Dogs were wearing that day. It was “Shirts off their Backs” Night, where they raffle off their game-used uniforms afterward to benefit a charity. Somehow I had managed to attend “Shirts off their Backs” Night last year too, but I’d much rather be watching – and photographing – them in their traditional garb. I’m not a fan of alternate uniforms to start with, but I particularly didn’t like that they weren’t even in the team’s colors. They still had their red shirts on underneath, and blue hats, so it just looked weird. Making it even stranger was the fact that the New Britain Rock Cats, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, were wearing red uniform tops. It took us a few innings to adjust to cheering against a red-uniformed team in favor of a team wearing uniforms more suited for the Miami Dolphins.
Today’s starter, Chris Balcom-Miller, is the player the Red Sox obtained when they traded Manny Delcarmen to the Rockies last year. He did fine in the first inning, but in the second, the Rock Cats got 3 runs on 4 hits, a walk, two wild pitches, and a passed ball. From there he settled down, but there was at least one baserunner in every inning. Balcom-Miller was helped by his defense too, with catcher Matt Spring throwing out an attempted base-stealer in the fourth, and center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker making a diving catch in the fifth.
Given that we play the Twins a lot in Spring Training, and that my Sea Dogs game last year was also against the Rock Cats, a lot of the opposing players were familiar to me too. One player I hadn’t heard of was New Britain’s starter, Deinys Suarez. But Suarez made quick work of the Sea Dogs lineup, staying perfect through the first four innings. Right fielder Chih-Hsien Chiang’s single leading off the fifth was the first hit of the day for Portland. Luckily it was followed by doubles from Matt Spring and Mitch Dening, the latter of which drove in two runs and made it a 3-2 score.
The Rock Cats got another run off Balcom-Miller in the sixth, but seventh inning doubles by Chiang and third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and another big hit by Dening, tied the game at 4-4. Right-handed reliever Michael Lee started the seventh, and when he ran into trouble in the eighth, he was bailed out by lefty Kyle Fernandes.
The tie continued into the ninth with Fernandes still on the mound. A one-out hit batsman put a runner on, and then a single misplayed by Hazelbaker for an error resulted in runners at second and third. Fernandes got out of the inning with two fly balls, but unfortunately one of them was a sac fly that plated the go-ahead run. Chiang walked to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but New Britain reliever Matt Schuld struck out the side to end the game.