NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — The odds were stacked against Portland Sea Dogs starter Brock Huntzinger.
The right-hander had started four games against the New Britain Rock Cats, with debilitating results. He was also coming off the disabled list after missing two starts because of a blister on his pitching hand.

When the first two Rock Cats rapped base hits Thursday, Huntzinger’s return took on an ominous tone, but his fortunes changed abruptly. Apparently, so have his team’s.

Huntzinger retired 16 consecutive batters after his inauspicious start and Will Middlebrooks belted a solo homer as the Sea Dogs slipped past the Rock Cats 1-0 before a sellout crowd of 7,315 for a matinee at New Britain Stadium.

Portland (16-36) has won two straight for the first time since late April.

“We had a tough May (6-25) and this is a good way to start June,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “Especially last night, being down 8-0 and being able to come back and swing the bats (in an 18-9 win). Now our pitching does a great job.”

Huntzinger (3-4) had an 11.49 ERA against the Rock Cats. On consecutive starts in early May, Boston’s third-round choice in the 2007 draft was pelted for 14 runs on 16 hits over eight innings.

After Steve Singleton opened the home first with a double and Chris Herrmann followed with a single to put runners at the corners, Huntzinger waltzed through the heart of the Rock Cats’ order with two strikeouts and a tapper to first. He zipped through the next four frames without allowing a baserunner.

“I told myself I need to turn my season around. I’m going to bear down and make some pitches here,” Huntzinger said. “I’m not going to give in. …

“It’s 90 percent mental. If you believe you can do something, you can.”

It took alert defense to bail out Huntzinger in the sixth.

With one out, Singleton snapped the string with a single, but was tossed out by right fielder Chih-Hsien Chiang trying to extend it to a double. Huntzinger walked Herrmann and uncorked a wild pitch. Chris Parmelee was walked intentionally, then was promptly picked off by catcher Tim Federowicz.

Huntzinger allowed three hits, walked two and struck out seven. He threw 88 pitches.

“He had feel for his offspeed stuff,” Boles said. “He had fastball command. He was around the plate the whole time but was down in the zone. He gave those six quality innings and that’s especially impressive coming off the DL.”

Rock Cats starter Steve Hirschfeld (3-3) was equally effective, keeping the Sea Dogs off the board for six innings, but he fell behind Middlebrooks leading off the seventh and paid the ultimate price. Middlebrooks slammed the next pitch off the face of the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall.

“He stayed away from me all day but he went 2-0, tried to throw a two-seamer, and it ran back over the middle of the plate,” Middlebrooks said. “I was looking for a fastball middle in and I got it.”

The Sea Dogs’ bullpen finished it off, but not without incident. Caleb Clay didn’t allow any hits but walked two in 1 2/3 innings.

Blake Maxwell, just back from Triple-A Pawtucket, walked Hermann before getting the final out in the eighth. He hit two batters and walked another to load the bases with one out in the ninth, but he struck out highly regarded Twins prospect Joe Benson for the second out.

“We had our best on the mound and they had their best at the plate,” Boles said. “Maxwell (bore) down and kept his composure.”

Maxwell notched his fourth save by punching out Dan Rohlfing.

To make room for Huntzinger on the roster, the Sea Dogs placed right-hander Michael Lee (right triceps strain) on the disabled list. Lee was slated to start tonight in Altoona.