PORTLAND — In the beginning, the Portland Sea Dogs featured their deepest pitching rotation in years with Brandon Workman, Drake Britton, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes.
Workman and Britton now pitch for Boston, and Ranaudo recently packed up for Triple-A Pawtucket.
That leaves Barnes, the only one of the four without Double-A experience before this season. And he’s still learning.
Barnes showed flashes of dominance Tuesday night but still allowed four runs, three earned, as the Richmond Flying Squirrels beat the Sea Dogs 8-2 before 6,890 at Hadlock Field.
Ryan Lollis hit two home runs for the Squirrels.
Barnes (5-8, 4.40 ERA) struck out seven, giving up seven hits, including a home run, and three doubles. He left after 101 pitches over 52/3 innings.
Barnes is fourth in the Eastern League in strikeouts (120), but also averages fewer than five innings a start (21 games, 94 innings).
“He showed real good stuff,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “We’re excited with how he’s progressing the pitch count ran up a little bit but I think our defense gave them some extra outs.”
Portland made one error and also misplayed a soft line drive into a single.
Barnes’ fastball ranged between 93 and 96 mph. When he commanded it and added his 76 mph curveball, he was cruising. When he fell behind in the count or missed his location, Richmond hit him.
“When he got that breaking ball over, he was outstanding,” said Richmond hitting coach and Portland native Ken Joyce. “Tonight we looked for the fastball and didn’t miss our opportunities.”
Portland’s offense provided little support. Christian Vazquez knocked in both runs (sacrifice fly in the fourth, RBI single in the eighth), scoring Shannon Wilkerson both times.
Vazquez (.343 in his last 28 games) and Wilkerson (.454 in his last seven games) are swinging the hottest bats for Portland.
Barnes began with a 1-2-3 first inning. He allowed two runs in the second on a bloop single and two doubles. Lollis led off the third by crushing a 2-0 fastball to right field for a three-run lead.
Richmond’s final run against Barnes came on a single, passed ball and RBI double by Adam Duvall.
Sea Dogs reliever Noe Ramirez gave up solo home runs to Lollis and Jarrett Parker. Parker’s two-run triple off Eric Niesen in the ninth completed the scoring.
Portland dropped to 56-59, remaining three games behind Trenton in their race for a playoff berth. Richmond is also 56-59.
NOTES: Friday’s game has been moved up an hour to 6 p.m. to give time for the postgame fireworks, which are being re-scheduled from a previous rain-out. Friday’s game is looking to be a popular one with pitching prospect Henry Owens making his Hadlock Field debut. Wednesday’s game features an appearance by Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger. Fans are also encouraged to bring items to donate to Goodwill. Chris Hernandez, an All-Star pitcher with the Sea Dogs last year, was recently sent down from Pawtucket and will make Wednesday night’s start. Third-base prospect Garin Cecchini (.293) broke out of an 0-for-15 slump with a single in the sixth inning. Keith Couch started for pitching-depleted Pawtucket but lasted only one inning after throwing 45 pitches. He gave up four runs, three earned, on three hits, two walks and an error.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or email@example.com