PORTLAND – The left-handed pitcher that Portland Sea Dogs fans expected to see did not take the mound.
But the other lefty worked out just fine.
And after a couple hiccups from the bullpen, all was good for the Sea Dogs in a 4-2 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Wednesday afternoon before a Hadlock Field crowd of 6,090.
Michael Almanzar broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run triple in the eighth inning. The red-hot Christian Vazquez singled in Almanzar for insurance.
Left-hander Mickey Pena started for the Sea Dogs, having just been promoted from advanced Class A Salem. Pena’s insertion into the rotation bumped highly touted lefty Henry Owens to Thursday’s start in Trenton.
Pena did not disappoint, throwing seven shutout innings and limiting New Hampshire to five hits and two walks. He struck out three.
“Every pitch was working for me,” Pena said of his fastball, curve, slider and change-up.
“Being my first game in Double-A, I assumed the hitters were more selective. One of the biggest factors was establishing my fastball in.”
Jeremy Kehrt (2-3) relieved and allowed the tying run in the eighth on a single and double, with two outs.
New Hampshire starter Marcus Walden (6-13) pitched well, but put two runners on in the eighth, hitting Shannon Wilkerson and then walking Juan Carlos Linares with two outs.
Reliever Evan Crawford came in to face Almanzar. But he left a pitch up.
“Outside change-up,” Almanzar said. “Just took it the other way.”
New Hampshire was playing the right-handed Almanzar to pull the ball and his fly down the right-field line scored both Wilkerson and Linares.
Vazquez, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, singled in Almanzar for a 4-1 lead, completing a 3-for-4 day.
Vazquez, known for his major league-ready defense, is now batting .289. Since June his average is .367.
“Because his defense is so good, I think the bat gets lost in (the hype about Vazquez),” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “He has a good strikeout-to-walk ratio (40/41). He works the count. Uses all fields. He does a lot of things well at the plate.”
That last RBI by Vazquez gave Portland some needed breathing room.
Four of the first five New Hampshire batters in the ninth got hits against Kehrt, closing the score to 4-2, with the bases loaded and one out.
Kehrt regrouped and struck out Kenny Wilson with an inside sinker.
“Just got to block it out,” Kehrt said of the hits.
“I think I threw good pitches. Just had to forget what happened.”
Boles then called on reliever Noe Ramirez. He induced a fly out to shortstop Derrick Gibson in left field, for Ramirez’s fourth save.
The Sea Dogs improved to 62-67. New Hampshire is 63-65. The teams have split their 20 games so far this season, and have four more to play next week in Manchester.
NOTES: The Sea Dogs embark on their final road trip of the year, starting tonight in Trenton and ending next Thursday in Manchester. The team returns to Hadlock Field for the final five games of the regular season, Aug. 30-Sept. 2 (doubleheader on Aug. 31). Garin Cecchini walked to extend his on-base streak to 30 games. It is the sixth-best streak in Sea Dogs history, one behind Mark Kotsay’s 31 (set in 1997).
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: