NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Jeremy Kehrt didn’t get the no-hitter or even his first win of the season, but he was still smiling.
That’s because batterymate Matt Spring and Ryan Dent hit back-to-back home runs in a five-run top of the ninth as the Portland Sea Dogs defeated the New Britain Rock Cats 8-3 to complete a sweep of Monday’s doubleheader.
“I really had a good mix going tonight,” said Kehrt, who held the Rock Cats hitless through five innings. “I established my sinker down in the zone early and after that I just trusted Spring. He called a really good game with my changeup and curveball.”
A three-run homer by slumping Tony Thomas sparked the Sea Dogs to a 5-4 win in the opener.
A spot starter, Kehrt, 27, was making just his fourth start of the season after being used out of the bullpen earlier in the year.
“That’s just Jeremy,” Spring said. “He goes out there and whatever his role is that day, he fills it to the best of his ability. He’s done such a great job for us. He’s such an asset to our team.”
Pete Ruiz (2-2) tossed two scoreless innings to earn the win. Cole Johnson, who was pulled after giving up the two homers in the ninth, dropped to 1-2.
The Rock Cats erased a 3-0 deficit in the bottom of the sixth on a solo homer by Angel Morales and a two-run shot by Miguel Sano.
“He probably would have wanted those pitches back, but he didn’t do anything wrong,” Spring said.
“That’s probably the closest I’ve been in my career in my baseball life (to throwing a no-hitter),” Kehrt added. “I’m a contact pitcher. I’m trying to throw strikes. I don’t like walking guys, so at least I made them earn it.
“They were two mistakes. They were supposed to be fastballs in and I left them over the plate. At this level, guys really attack mistakes.”
The Rock Cats dropped to 20-31 at New Britain Stadium this season, the worst home mark in the Eastern League. The Sea Dogs certainly enjoyed New Britain’s hospitality after going 1-7 on their previous road trip, which included five shutouts.
Portland has won four in a row after dropping eight straight and climbed within two games of .500 (50-52). Despite starting July on a 5-13 slide, the Sea Dogs are only three games behind New Hampshire for the second playoff spot in the Eastern Division.
Spring’s homer in the ninth was his second of the game as the two-run blast gave Portland a 2-0 lead in the second inning. The Sea Dogs then broke it open as Garin Cecchini added an RBI double and Michael Almanzar and Ronald Bermudez delivered run-scoring singles.
Through five innings, New Britain’s only baserunner came in the third when Daniel Ortiz reached on first baseman Travis Shaw’s error.
“It’s great to go out there and give the team six strong innings and try to help the bullpen out,” Kehrt added.
Keith Couch (7-3) gave up two homers in the opener, but recorded the win, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings. Rafael Perez got the final three outs for his third save.
After Jordan Parraz’s two-run homer gave the Rock Cats a 2-0 lead in the second, Portland answered with four runs in the third to take the lead for good.
Thomas entered the twinbill batting .191 since June 1, but his homer off New Britain starter B.J Hermsen (1-7), a line shot over the left-field fence, staked the Sea Dogs to a 4-2 lead.