PORTLAND – Right-hander Matt Barnes and timely hitting combined to end the Portland Sea Dogs’ third-longest losing streak in team history, turning back the Reading Fightin Phils 5-1 on Saturday night at Hadlock Field.
The Sea Dogs had lost eight straight. The franchise record is 10, in 1994 and 2006. The team had a nine-game streak in 2003.
Barnes allowed only three hits in seven innings, striking out 10.
Portland had a shutout until Jim Murphy homered to left- center off Rafael Perez with two outs in the ninth.
The Sea Dogs supported Barnes with strong defense, including two double plays, the biggest in the sixth after Barnes issued two walks with one out.
Second baseman Derrik Gibson leaped to catch a line drive and fired to first to double off Zach Collier, who thought the ball was over Gibson’s lead.
Gibson also gave the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead with a leadoff homer in the sixth just inside the left-field pole.
But the story was Barnes, who allowed only two runners to second base. Asked if it was his best outing of the season, Barnes gave an emphatic, “Absolutely.”
“I’ve always done well against Reading (3-1 this season),” he said. “I was able to command the fastball on both sides of the plate. I also had command of my second pitches. It was a good mix. The defense played great.
“It was easy to get loose with the heat.
“I felt strong coming out.”
The pitch Gibson hit over the Maine Monster?
“A fastball, middle of the plate, up and in,” he said.
After Gibson’s homer (“A fastball, middle of the plate, up and in”), Peter Hissey singled to right with two outs, then stole second and third. Christian Vazquez singled up the middle to make it 2-0.
The Sea Dogs made it 5-0 in the seventh. Michael Almanzar opened with a walk and went to second on a groundout. Ryan Dent doubled into the left-field corner to score Almanzar, got to third on a wild pitch and scored on Shannon Wilkerson’s sacrifice fly to left. Gibson, who walked after Dent’s double, scored on an RBI single to left by Heiker Meneses.
With the way Barnes was pitching, Portland didn’t need many runs.
“Matt was throwing real well,” said Gibson. “We knew he was going to give us a good chance to win. He dominated with his stuff — fastball, curve and change-up. Their hitters were off balance. It was fun to watch.”
Now that the losing streak is over, the team is looking to put together a win streak.
“We’ll get back at it on Sunday and hope to put up a W,” said Barnes. “If we can string together seven or eight wins, we’ll get back into it. We have good chemistry on the team.”
“We had pitching one night and not hitting or vice versa,” said Gibson of the losing streak. “We had some bad luck, too, hitting the ball right at people. It’s a long season. You’re going to go through these things.”
NOTES: The Sea Dogs lead the season series with Reading 9-7 with their final meeting Sunday.
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: