RICHMOND, Va. – Only two swings of the bat Saturday night separated the Portland Sea Dogs from the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Both of them came in the fifth inning, and gave the Squirrels a 3-1 victory before 8,096 fans.
Mark Minicozzi and Ryan Cavan hit solo homers off Portland reliever Marco Duarte in the fifth to extend a 1-0 lead to 3-0.
Squirrels starting pitcher Ari Ronick replaced Craig Westcott, who was scratched because of flu-like symptons. Ronick, who hadn’t started a game since May 2010, pitched four innings, allowing one hit and striking out five.
Sea Dogs starter Chris Martin (3-4) yielded three hits and a run in four innings, striking out four.
Ronick and Martin “both did a quality job,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “They commanded the strike zone and mixed the tempo well.”
The problem for the Sea Dogs came in the fifth. Both homers sailed over the right-field fence about 350 feet away.
Boles said, “The ball doesn’t carry here. (Minicozzi and Cavan) squared them up pretty good. To leave this ballpark. It doesn’t happen too often.”
Despite giving up the two homers, Boles was encouraged by Duarte. In his next three innings, Duarte allowed two hits and no runs, striking out three.
“Duarte pitched great,” Boles said. “He attacked the zone. He was outstanding tonight.”
The Sea Dogs (28-39) got one run back in the sixth, but the Squirrels (33-35) used three pitchers to strike out 11 and limited Portland (28-39) to five hits. Richmond had seven.
Austin Fleet (1-2) got the win, allowing four hits and one run in three innings. Brett Bochy was impressive in earning his eighth save. He allowed no hits in two innings and struck out four.
“Fleet and Bochy are quality arms coming out of the bullpen,” Boles said. “They attack the zone.”
The Sea Dogs had a few chances but failed to capitalize. In the fifth, Marquez Smith greeted Fleet with a line single to left but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
In the sixth, Jeremy Hazelbaker drew a one-out walk, stole second and scored on Oscar Tejeda’s single to right-center, trimming the deficit to 3-1.
After Juan Carlos Linares popped out to second, Reynaldo Rodriguez singled to left, but Bryce Brentz struck out swinging to end the threat.
In the eighth, Hazelbaker drew another one-out walk, but Bochy struck out Tejeda and Linares to end the inning. Bochy also pitched a perfect ninth, adding another strikeout.
Boles remains optimistic his offense will get back on track.
“Tomorrow’s a new day,” he said. “We’ll be ready to go to work.”
The teams conclude their three-game set at 2:05 p.m. today with Portland right-hander Stolmy Pimentel set to face Andy Reichard of Richmond.