Portland Sea Dogs left-hander Henry Owens thought the change-up might have fooled Andy Burns.
“Give him credit,” Owens said. “He was out in front but he kept his hands back.”
Burns waited on the pitch and doubled into the left-field corner at Hadlock Field, breaking up Owens’ no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth inning Thursday night as the Sea Dogs beat the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 8-2.
Owens, 21, the Boston Red Sox’s top pitching prospect, allowed two runs on five walks and the one hit over 72/3 innings. He struck out six.
After Burns’ hit, Portland Manager Billy McMillon came out to get Owens (4-2), who left to a standing ovation.
“Good fastball command. Good change-up command,” McMillon said, “but he knows he can do better. His pitch count (96) went up because of the walks.”
Owens pitched an official no-hitter in the opener April 3 at Reading in a game shortened to six innings because of rain. No Sea Dogs pitcher has thrown a nine-inning no-hitter. Brad Penny (1999) and Josh Beckett (2001) pitched no-hitters with help from the bullpen.
On Thursday, Owens was mixing a 90 mph fastball with his change-up (and only two curveballs) to keep the Fisher Cats off balance. His five walks included the first two batters in the eighth inning.
“I think it was just adrenaline. Probably too excited,” Owens said. “Best I’ve felt. Good to get in a rhythm. The situation didn’t call for the curve. The change-up was working.”
After the walks, Jonathan Jones hit a line drive off Owens’ hip. Owens scrambled to the ball and threw Jones out.
After being checked by the trainer, Owens stayed in the game and got Jon Berti to ground out, scoring a run. Burns then came up and broke the suspense.
“He left that (change-up) up a little bit and I was able to find a hole,” Burns said.
“He pitched real well. Mixed speeds. Hit his spots. He’s tall (6-foot-6) and the ball comes out of his hand well. A tough night for us.”
The game featured two of the best pitchers in the minors, with Owens (ranked the 40th top prospect by the Baseball America publication) going against Aaron Sanchez (a Toronto Blue Jays prospect who is ranked No. 32).
Both pitchers are 21 and from southern California. Sanchez, who throws a 95 mph fastball, retired the first eight Sea Dogs that he faced.
But then Sanchez lost some of his control, allowing two walks, sandwiched around a Mookie Betts single, to load the bases for Travis Shaw, who is leading Portland with 25 RBI this season.
Shaw worked a full count, then stroked a three-run double to right-center.
“He’s got a very lively fastball,” Shaw said. “He just fell behind and he had to throw it over, and I put a good swing on it.
Sanchez threw 32 pitches in the third inning (54 overall) and was pulled.
New Hampshire came close to a hit in the third when Berti sizzled a grounder that bounced off third baseman Heiker Meneses’ glove – and into the hand of shortstop Deven Marrero, who threw Berti out.
“Deven is always in the position to make a play,” McMillon said.
Owens kept dealing, working with Blake Swihart, his catcher since they were both rookies in 2012.
“His angle was great tonight,” Swihart said. “He was aggressive and he didn’t let up at all.”
NOTES: Betts stretched his on-base streak to 60 games. … The Sea Dogs improved to 20-11 while the Fisher Cats dropped to 14-18. … Patriots running back Shane Vereen threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The Sea Dogs placed reliever Nate Reed on the disabled list and activated reliever Matty Ott from the DL. … Brandon Workman bobblehead dolls will be given out to the first 1,000 fans through the gate Friday. The gate opens at 4:30 p.m.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: