PORTLAND — The game began with center fielder Shannon Wilkerson charging in for a diving grab of a shallow fly ball.
Then new shortstop Deven Marrero accelerated to a grounder headed for left field, and fired a strike to first base for the second out.
Two web gems and the Portland Sea Dogs were on their way Monday night — especially with Chris Hernandez on the mound.
Hernandez (1-0) allowed two runs over eight innings to pace the Sea Dogs to a 3-2 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before a Hadlock Field crowd of 6,814.
He used his fastball, cut fastball, change-up and curveball to limit the Fisher Cats to seven hits and one walk, and he struck out three.
“Good mix of all four of his pitches,” catcher Matt Spring said. “He did a good job of making them swing the bat early. He kept them off balance and, like always, he competed his butt off.”
The eight-inning game was Hernandez’s longest as a pro.
He needed only 88 pitches (52 strikes).
“I felt good. I had enough to go nine, but that’s alright,” said Hernandez, who was demoted from Triple-A two weeks ago in order to regain his command.
“I’m on my way there,” said Hernandez, whose ERA improved to 2.25.
Noe Ramirez pitched a scoreless ninth for his third save. He was the only Portland reliever used over the last two days, since Keith Couch pitched a complete game on Sunday.
There were no huge, game-changing hits, although Michael Almanzar was 2 for 3 with two RBI. Spring also had two hits.
Three straight New Hampshire errors accounted for two unearned runs in the fourth inning.
With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, Portland loaded the bases on two singles (Almanzar and Spring) and a hit batter (Peter Hissey) with one out.
Derrik Gibson grounded the ball to second base. New Hampshire went for the double play, but Gibson beat the throw to knock in the game-winner.
The Sea Dogs improved to 61-66, while New Hampshire (62-64) had its winning streak stopped at five.
Portland played errorless defense, highlighted by those opening plays.
Our defense in the first inning set the tone. They came ready to play,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “It’s a credit to our guys, especially after the travel we had last night (arriving from Harrisburg, Pa., at 3 a.m. Monday morning).”
New Hampshire started Chad Jenkins, who is on a tight pitch count (57 pitches) and went four innings. Reliever Chad Boone (3-2) took the loss.
NOTES: Portland third baseman Garin Cecchini went 1 for 3 with a walk. He has a 28-game on-base streak, which is sixth-best in franchise history, and the longest since Zach Daeges’ 32-game mark in 2008.
Couch was selected the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week after two victories last week, when he pitched 16 innings, allowing two runs and striking out eight.
Fireworks will follow Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game.
Wednesday’s noon game will feature lefty Henry Owens, who has a 1.20 ERA and 29 strikeouts in his three Double-A starts.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at [email protected]