PORTLAND — Keith Couch pitched a complete game and Travis Shaw hit two home runs Tuesday night as the Portland Sea Dogs swept the Trenton Thunder in a doubleheader at Hadlock Field, 4-1 and 7-6.
Shaw’s second home run was a walk-off, leading off the eighth inning of the second game (minor league doubleheader games are seven innings). Shaw has six home runs in his last 17 games.
Tony Thomas and Ryan Dent also homered Tuesday night.
The Sea Dogs (43-38) have won five straight and remain in second place in the Eastern League East Division, three games ahead of third-place Trenton (41-42). The top two teams in the division qualify for the playoffs.
The night began poorly for Portland. Three pitches into the game the Sea Dogs trailed 1-0, with a Trenton runner standing on second base.
“I was like, ‘wow, I got ambushed,’ ” Couch said. “From there I just kicked it up another notch.”
After allowing a single and double on his fastball, Couch (6-2) adjusted, retiring 16 of the next 17 batters. He ended with eight strikeouts.
“I had to mix pitches early because they were obviously looking for the fastball,” said Couch, who began using his change-up and slider with results.
Couch dropped his ERA to 3.84, and to 2.13 in his five starts.
Couch, 23, was a 13th-round draft pick in 2010 out of Division II Adelphi University in New York. He put together good numbers as a starter in Class A in 2011-12 (18-14, 3.50 ERA).
But the Red Sox moved Couch to the bullpen as he left spring training for Portland this past April.
“It was something I had to get used to,” Couch said. “Personally, I like starting, but you do what you’ve got to do. If I’m going to get to the big leagues in the pen, I’m with it.”
Couch, who returned to the rotation in June when Brandon Workman was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, was was efficient Tuesday, needing only 85 pitches (59 strikes) for the seven innings, keeping the bullpen gate closed in the first game.
“With the arms we have here, (Couch) had to wait his turn,” Boles said. “He has gotten his opportunity and has taken advantage of it.”
Portland gave Couch the lead back quickly. Garin Cecchini drew a two-out walk in the first inning and Thomas followed with a blast over the left-field wall for a 2-1 lead.
It was Thomas’ third home run in as many games, giving him 10 for the season, second-best to Michael Almanzar’s 11 on the team.
Juan Carlos Linares and Kolbrin Vitek added RBI singles in the fourth.
In the second game, Dent’s three-run homer gave Portland a 6-5 lead in the sixth, but Tyler Austin’s homer tied it in the seventh.
Shaw, who homered in the fourth inning, then ended it in the eighth with a blast to right-center, his ninth of the year.
NOTES: Outfielder Shannon Wilkerson sat out the doubleheader with a tweak in his hamstring muscle. He hopes to play tonight. The announced paid attendance was 3,794. Wednesday is “Civil War Night” at Hadlock.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at firstname.lastname@example.org