READING, Pa. — A small cluster of fans seated behind home plate at FirstEnergy Stadium cheered wildly when Reading outfielder Aaron Altherr looked at a called third strike in the sixth inning Tuesday night.
They were on their feet again hooting after Reading second baseman Carlos Alonso flied out to end the seventh.
They were celebrating again an inning later, when Portland Sea Dogs third baseman Heiker Meneses made a nifty play to start an inning-ending double play.
What’s this? A Sea Dogs fans club in Reading?
Well, sort of. The small group was cheering for Nate Reed, a local high school star at Oley Valley High School who pitched three scoreless innings for the Sea Dogs in a 4-0 win over Reading.
Reed combined with starter Mickey Pena and Aaron Kurcz for the six-hit shutout and Portland’s second straight win over Reading.
It was special for Reed to perform so well just a few miles from where he grew up.
“It’s always fun pitching at home, let alone in front of my family and friends,” said the 26-year-old left-hander after completing his best outing of the season.
Reed allowed one single, walked one and struck out two. He did it in an efficient 41 pitches – not bad for a guy who hadn’t taken the mound for nine days.
“I was a little rusty that first batter,” said Reed, who walked Cesar Hernandez to open the sixth. “I was trying to get a feel for it. I ended up staying nice and calm, throwing strikes, getting quick outs.”
Reed, signed as a free agent by the Red Sox during the offseason, had some rough outings earlier this season. His ERA was sitting at 12.79 two weeks ago.
He’s learned that less is more. He’s found that taking a little off his sinker can be productive. Over his last two outings, spanning seven innings, he’s allowed one run.
“I’m trying to get that sinker over for a strike, not trying to be too fine with it early in the count,” he said. “It’s a contact pitch and I was trying to use it as a swing-and-miss pitch when that’s not what I wanted.”
Reed took over for Mickey Pena, who continued his mastery over Reading with five shutout innings. He allowed three singles – two of which didn’t leave the infield – and struck out five. He lowered his ERA to 3.58.
In three starts against Reading, he is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 13 innings.
The Sea Dogs gave Pena an early cushion, peppering right-hander Severino Gonzalez with well-placed singles during a three-run third. Travis Shaw, Blake Swihart and Henry Ramos each had RBI singles.
Mookie Betts had an RBI single in the fourth, extending his on-base consecutive games streak to 58. It was his only hit in four trips.
Notes: Betts was named Eastern League Player of the Month for April after batting .430 and scoring 30 runs in 22 games.