HARRISBURG, Pa. — Matt Barnes made one costly mistake to Carlos Rivero in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday night.
And it opened the floodgates for the host Harrisburg Senators in front of 6,854 at Metro Bank Park on City Island. The Senators chased Barnes and then unloaded on the bullpen to send Portland to an 8-0 loss.
The Sea Dogs (59-66), who are still hoping to chase down Trenton for the second playoff spot in the Eastern Division, saw the host Senators plate seven runs in the sixth to blow the doors off a pitchers’ dual between Barnes and Harrisburg right-hander Matt Swynenberg.
“Matt started to lose a little of his command (in the sixth),” said Portland Manager Kevin Boles.
“Tonight, though, he had a much better shape to his fastball and it was a good weapon for him early. It was a good thing to see.
“His stuff is playing more into the zone right now. He’s really come a long way since early in the season. I don’t think tonight the final score was a reflection of how he pitched.”
Barnes (5-9), the highly regarded Boston Red Sox prospect, looked strong early with a live fastball that yielded six strikeouts over the first five innings. He could not record an out in the sixth, though, and left after four straight batters reached base.
Rivero’s two-run single to center scored Brian Goodwin and Jerad Head to give the Western Division leaders a 3-0 lead. That ended Barnes’ night as he made way for righty Miguel Celestino.
“They had a good pitcher tonight,” said Harrisburg Manager Matt LeCroy. “He had a live fastball and we were able to get some hits against him.”
Celestino gave up a single to first baseman Ricky Hague to load the bases. Two batters later, he walked catcher Sandy Leon to force in a run. The next batter, Destin Hood, lined a two-run single to left field. Leon made it to third and then crossed the plate on a throwing error by left fielder J.C. Linares.
Head capped Portland’s forgettable inning by grounding an RBI single to left to make it 8-0. In all, the Senators (67-59) sent 12 batters to the plate.
“I give all of the credit to their offense,” said Boles. “They hung in there and had some good at-bats and they were able to get some good passes at the ball, and we just weren’t able to limit the damage.”
Leadoff hitter Billy Burns, Head and Hague and Rivero all finished with two hits for the Senators, who regained sole possession of first place in the Western Division.
Swynenberg pitched five scoreless innings in a spot start, yielding only three hits with two strikeouts and a walk. Neil Holland pitched three scoreless innings and Pat Lehman added a scoreless ninth.
Third baseman Garin Cecchini was the lone bright spot for the Portland offense, going 3 for 4.