PORTLAND – When the Boston Red Sox signed infielder Marquez Smith and sent him to the Portland Sea Dogs in mid-June, he joined a losing team.
The losing would continue, as Portland fell to 18 games below .500 (34-52) at the All-Star break on July 9.
How these Sea Dogs have risen.
After Smith’s three-run homer led Portland to a 7-4 win Sunday over the New Britain Rock Cats before 6,062 at Hadlock Field, the Sea Dogs are 60-66, having gone 26-14 since the break.
With 15 games left in the season, Portland can actually entertain thoughts of a winning season. The Sea Dogs need to go 11-4 in their remaining games.
“It’s a great group of guys who play hard,” Smith said. “We’ve received some new additions and some pitchers who have really stepped up. Our pitchers kept us in the game (Sunday).
Brandon Workman (2-0) won his second Double-A start, allowing two runs in five innings, and Brock Huntzinger recorded his sixth save with the final four outs.
Smith’s offense was complemented by the wunderkid, Xander Bogaerts, who smacked two doubles with the easiest of swings, scoring once and driving in two runs.
In nine games since his promotion from Class A, Bogaerts, 19, is batting .378 with five doubles, two home runs and seven RBI.
“He is a guys who can drive the baseball to all fields,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “He has a real good idea for being 19 years old. This kid has been really impressive. You can see why we’re so high on him. He is a terrific-looking young hitter.”
Bogaerts doubled to left in the second inning and scored on Peter Hissey’s single.
Workman eventually lost the lead, allowing runs in the third (two singles and a sacrifice fly) and fourth (Rene Tosoni home run).
“I made a few pitches which I wish I could have back,” said Workman, whose ERA in 11 innings is 1.64. “But overall it was a pretty good outing.”
Workman got the win when his teammates rallied in the fifth. Derrik Gibson walked, Ryan Dent singled, and Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in Gibson with a double to right field.
Then Smith stepped in against Rock Cats starter Logan Darnell (9-11).
“They were throwing me away a lot, so I was just trying to hit something hard, somewhere,” Smith said. “It happened to be a fastball up. I was able to get a decent amount of wood on it.”
Smith’s home run over the right-field wall gave Portland a 5-2 lead.
Reliever Chris Martin allowed two runs in 22/3 innings. Bogaerts added some insurance with a two-run double that one-hopped the center-field wall in the eighth inning.
Huntzinger yielded two singles in the ninth, but also recorded three strikeouts.
NOTES: The Sea Dogs and Rock Cats are not done with each other. The two teams meet again Monday night in the opener of a three-game series in New Britain. Portland holds a 10-6 edge in the season series. The Sea Dogs return to Hadlock Field on Thursday for a four-game series against Binghamton. Outfielder Bryce Brentz sat out Sunday’s game because of tightness in his back.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: