NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — During their first visit to Connecticut in April, the Portland Sea Dogs swept a three-game series against the New Britain Rock Cats.
But Portland won’t match that feat in its second trip as the Rock Cats rallied from an early two-run deficit to defeat the Sea Dogs 4-2 Tuesday in the opener of another three-game set at New Britain Stadium.
Brandon Waring’s two-run double off Mike Augliera (2-4) in the fourth erased Portland’s 2-1 lead and Daniel Ortiz’s RBI double in the sixth made it 4-2. Mookie Betts stayed on fire for the Sea Dogs, going 2 for 4 to raise his average to an Eastern League-best .399.
“He’s playing the game the right way,” Portland Manager Billy McMillon said. “He’s fun to watch. He’s an exciting kid.”
Otherwise, the Portland bats went quiet following Sunday’s dramatic 13-12 win over New Hampshire in which the Sea Dogs scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth.
The Sea Dogs collected eight hits, but stranded two runners in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings after grabbing a 2-0 lead on Blake Swihart’s solo home run and Betts’ RBI single.
Portland (22-13) dropped to 6-2 against the Rock Cats this season and missed its second chance this week to move 11 games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 20, 2008 (69-58).
Four New Britain pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts, including seven by starter Taylor Rogers (3-3), who scattered six hits over six innings.
Lester Oliveros, the fourth New Britain pitcher, struck out two in the ninth, including Betts, to earn his fifth save.
“Its going to be like that sometimes,” Betts said. “It’s baseball. You’re not going to hit them every time. We’ll go out and play tomorrow.”
The Sea Dogs, who entered Tuesday leading the Eastern League with a .289 team batting average, had trouble putting the ball in play in the later innings when they got runners in scoring position.
Rogers struck out Derrik Gibson and Peter Hissey to strand runners on second and third in the sixth.
In the seventh, Adrian Salcedo fanned Carlos Rivero looking to leave runners on the corners.
Then in the eighth, Cole Johnson struck out the side to again strand runners on second and third.
“We just didn’t put the fat part of the bat on the ball as well as we’ve done in previous nights,” McMillon said. “They threw strikes, we just didn’t hit them.”
Augliera allowed four runs and seven hits over seven innings. The Rock Cats scored in the second on Ortiz’s run-scoring groundout.
Hissey led the strikeout parade, fanning in all four at-bats.
Oliveros hit Deven Marrero with one out in the ninth, but he got Trevor Shaw to fly out and struck out Rivero to end it.
“One swing of the bat there in the ninth inning and the game’s tied,” McMillon said.
Swihart’s homer was his third of the season, his second in New Britain.