MANCHESTER, N.H. – First came the big news, then the good news.

The big news for the Portland Sea Dogs is that Boston Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will continue his rehab assignment at Hadlock Field on Tuesday.

The good news came later Sunday as the Sea Dogs snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, before 6,933 at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.

Luis Exposito drove in three runs with two doubles, as the Sea Dogs (20-15) avoided a series sweep by the first-place Fisher Cats (24-13).

“I hope that sparks us and we keep winning from here on,” Exposito said.

Another spark should show up before the game on Tuesday when Ellsbury makes his return to Hadlock. He starred in Portland at the end of the 2006 championship season, and at the start of 2007.

“It will be neat to see Ells because he’s been through here,” Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler said. “Any time the big league guys come down, it’s great for the young guys to see how they work.”

Ellsbury, 26, has been on the disabled list since suffering fractured ribs in an April 11 collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre.

He is scheduled to play for the first time today with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The PawSox then go on the road to Norfolk, Va., but Ellsbury will stay in New England and head north to Portland.

At Hadlock, Ellsbury is joining a team that can get production out of several of its prospects. On Sunday, it was Exposito, 23, the catcher for whom the Red Sox have big plans.

With Portland down 2-1, Exposito stroked a two-run double to left in the seventh inning.

New Hampshire tied the game in the bottom of the eighth, and Exposito responded with a one-run double in the ninth. He is batting .263 with a team-leading 24 RBI.

“They challenged him and he got some big at-bats,” Beyeler said.

Jason Rice picked up his sixth save in the ninth, but it was not routine. After a leadoff single, Darin Mastroianni entered as a pinch runner. He reached second base on a sacrifice bunt.

Rice tried to pick off Mastroianni at second base twice. The second throw sailed into center field. Mastroianni took a few steps toward third but then tried to come back.

Center fielder Che-Hsuan Lin gunned him out, to shortstop Jose Iglesias.

“You guys plan that?” yelled Exposito as he entered the clubhouse later.

Rice got Callix Crabbe to fly out to end the game.

Portland starter Stephen Fife (3.22 ERA) put in a fine effort, holding New Hampshire to two runs over six innings.

Reliever Santo Luis (2-1) retired five straight batters before yielding a walk and a RBI double by Manny Mayorson in the eighth.

New Hampshire outhit Portland 9-7, but the Sea Dogs batters drew 10 walks (two intentional), including four passes to leadoff hitter Nate Spears. He is batting .250, but with 26 walks and a .404 on-base percentage.

“I was just seeing the ball well,” said Spears, who scored twice.

Portland got its first run in the sixth. Ryan Kalish walked and went to third on Anthony Rizzo’s single.

Ray Chang’s single brought Kalish home.

Rizzo, the recently arrived first baseman, went 2 for 4 with a double. He’s batting .316. Chang (.304) was 1 for 2 with two walks.

 

NOTES: Beyeler did not know how long Ellsbury’s rehab assignment is supposed to last. The Red Sox only announced plans for today in Pawtucket and Tuesday in Portland.

While the Sea Dogs stopped New Hampshire’s six-game winning streak, the Trenton Thunder are streaking along with 10 straight wins, beating Binghamton 13-7. The second-place Thunder (21-15) trail New Hampshire by 2 1/2 games in the Eastern League East Division. Portland is in third, three games back.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]