PORTLAND – With a sellout crowd enjoying 73-degree weather, a Sea Dogs lead and Michael Lee’s pitching, it was a beautiful day at Hadlock Field.
What could go wrong?
With these 2011 Sea Dogs, it is better not to ask. There are talented pieces on this team — but putting them together has been a struggle.
After Lee’s shutout performance over 62/3 innings, reliever Cesar Cabral was hit hard, as the Trenton Thunder topped Portland 5-2 before 7,368 fans — many of whom were cheering on the Yankees affiliate.
Worse than the defeat for Portland, third baseman Will Middlebrooks was injured when a hard bouncer struck his right hand in the seventh inning. He left the game and was still being evaluated afterward.
Lee’s hard luck, in terms of wins, continued Sunday. In his nine starts, Lee has allowed three runs or less seven times, but his record is 1-4. His ERA dropped to 4.17 after Sunday’s performance.
“He’s got good stuff. He mixes well and got me off-balance,” said Trenton designated hitter Cody Johnson, who struck out twice against Lee.
Lee’s trouble has been command. Opponents are batting .229 against him, but he has gotten into high pitch counts.
On Sunday, he lasted longer than any Sea Dogs starter this year, allowing three hits and two walks, while striking out four.
“Moved the fastball in and out,” said Lee, who mixed in sliders and change-ups. “I kind of figured some stuff out mechanically the last couple of days. Was able to throw everything for a strike.”
Trenton starter Shaeffer Hall (4-3) was also on. His only hiccup was the second inning, with two outs. Chih-Hsien Chiang homered out of the park, to right center. Oscar Tejeda singled and advanced on an error, and Jon Hee doubled him in.
That looked like it would hold up. Lee left after 86 pitches, with two outs in the seventh and no one on base.
Cabral (0-3) entered and gave up an infield single — the hard-bouncer off Middlebrooks — but got ahead of Johnson with an 0-2 count.
But the next pitch to Trenton’s home-run leader (with eight) was a fastball right over the plate. Johnson crushed it to right center for a two-run homer, tying the game.
“I’m guessing he wanted to go up and in on me, but he left it over the plate,” Johnson said. “And I put a good swing on it.”
Cabral gave up three runs on four hits in the eighth. He faced 11 batters and five scored. Cabral, a touted lefty with a 1.62 ERA in Salem before his promotion two weeks ago, has a 15.88 ERA thus far in Double-A.
“We’re going to keep sticking with him because he’s a quality left-handed arm,” Portland Manager Kevin Boles said.
“He just left some pitches up in the zone. Hopefully, he’ll get more comfortable and will be able to execute pitches better.”
NOTES: Touted prospect and right-handed starter Chris Balcom-Miller is being promoted to Portland. Balcom-Miller, 22, was in the Sea Dogs clubhouse after the game but has not been added to the roster. Balcom-Miller was obtained last August from Colorado in the Manny Delcarmen trade. This year, in advanced Class A Salem, he was 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA.
Catcher Tim Federowicz threw out 2 of 2 base stealers, making him 11 of 25 for the season Chiang is now 13 for 35 (.371) with three home runs in his last 10 games.
Today’s 1 p.m. game may be the best of the series with Trenton’s Dellin Betances (1.30 ERA) opposing Portland’s Alex Wilson (2.85). Wilson, who has been in Portland close to a year, could be nearing a promotion to Pawtucket.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: