PORTLAND — With the Portland Sea Dogs leading 6-2 in the ninth inning, co-closer Jason Rice didn’t figure on being used Sunday afternoon at Hadlock Field.

In a flash, though, New Britain scored three runs and trailed 6-5 with one out and a runner on second base.

Rice was summoned.

“You want to be put in that situation,” Rice said. “I love it. I feed off it.’

Rice induced Chris Parmelee to ground out to first base after an eight-pitch at-bat. Then, with pinch runner Vancarlos Ortiz standing on third, Alexander Soto lined out to right.

The Sea Dogs (13-9) won for the sixth time in their last seven games, while the Rock Cats (4-18) lost their eighth straight.

“The guys are playing hard and being productive,” Portland Manager Arnie Beyeler said.

The offensive help came from everywhere. Ryan Kalish stroked a two-run double to right off Tyler Robertson (0-1) in the first inning.

Jason Place tripled to right in the second inning and scored on Nate Spear’s sacrifice fly. Juan Apodaca doubled home two runs in the third.

The eventual winning run came on a bases-loaded walk in the fifth, issued by reliever Santos Arias to Will Vazquez.

Apodaca, Portland’s back-up catcher, is off to a nice start with a .355 average and four RBI in nine games.

“It’s not easy (being the back-up), Apodaca said. “Just keep working and, whenever I get a chance, do everything I can.”

Portland’s pitching had its ups-and-downs. Ryne Miller retired the side in order in the first and fourth. In the second and third innings, though, he threw 60 pitches, walked four, hit a batter and gave up two hits.

Miller showed he’s a bulldog, pitching out of two bases-loaded, one-out jams, allowing only one run.

Miller gave up two singles in the fifth, then yielded to lefty Tommy Hottovy (2-0), the old man on the staff at 28. Hottovy, coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2008, leads the bullpen with a 2.93 ERA. He allowed one run on a bloop RBI single in three innings.

“I feel really good, night and day from last year,” Hottovy said. “You fight for so long, wondering how you’re going to feel coming through surgery.

“It’s obviously enjoyable to be back and feeling like you’re 100 percent again.”

Santo Luis relieved Hottovy and, after a 1-2-3 eighth, New Britain pounced on him in the ninth for three runs on two singles, a triple and double.

Rice was called in, and he ended it for his third save. Place chased down the line drive to right for the final out.
“Just pounded the zone with fastballs and let my defense work,” Rice said.

NOTES: New Britain catcher Danny Lehmann was shaken up in a first-inning collision with Kalish, who tried to score from third base on a grounder. Lehmann took the throw and held on despite being run over by Kalish. He caught the rest of the inning, then left the game.

Because back-up catcher Alexander Soto was the designated hitter, infielder Toby Gardenhire took over the catching duties. “I never caught a whole game before,” said Gardenhire, the son of Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire. …

The Red Sox are making sure their prospects are rested. Shortstop Jose Iglesias sat out for the second straight day, and regular catcher Luis Exposito was the DH again. …

After beating up on the last-place Rock Cats, Portland welcomes the Eastern League’s second-worst team, the Reading Phillies (8-15), for a four-game series starting at 6 p.m. tonight. The Phillies have lost six straight. …

The Sea Dogs have not announced a starter for tonight. Portland seems to have three options – activate Kyle Weiland from the disabled list, start Eammon Portice, who usually relieves Casey Kelly (Tuesday’s scheduled starter) or use several relievers.
 
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:
[email protected]