Strikeouts and no-hit outings are nice, but Henry Owens wants to be a major league pitcher. That means lasting longer into games, keeping teams off balance.
And Owens is doing that more often.
Owens pitched seven scoreless innings for the second straight game Thursday as the Portland Sea Dogs beat the New Britain Rock Cats 2-1 at Hadlock Field.
Owens (6-3) gave up three hits and walked two, striking out five. He dropped his ERA to 2.52.
“Kind of latched onto my rhythm and timing and have rolled with it,” Owens said. “We’re playing good baseball behind me so it’s a lot of fun.”
In his past five starts, Owens has allowed 10 hits and three runs, although two of those starts were four innings each because he threw too many pitches.
One four-inning effort was a no-hitter, but with five walks.
On Thursday, Owens pitched efficiently and effectively with 99 pitches (66 strikes). He established the fastball (50 of them), used his plus change-up (29) and mixed in more curves (20).
“Probably one of his better outings,” Portland Manager Billy McMillon said. “Mixed his pitches well. Introduced the curveball a lot more than I’ve seen all year.”
Owens gave up a ground single and walk in the first and a double to left in the third. After that he retired 12 straight until allowing an infield hit in the seventh.
He followed that with a walk but finished with two strikeouts sandwiched around a flyout.
“I’ve stuck with the same approach all year, trying to get early contact and go late in the games,” Owens said. “A couple of stretches it didn’t happen, and it’s happening now.
“I got them in an early swing mode with a lot of fastballs early.”
Portland got all the runs it needed in the first when it pounced on New Britain starter Tyler Duffy (1-1) for four hits, including RBI doubles from Stefan Welch and Sean Coyle.
Portland’s defense came through with key plays, including a gem from shortstop Deven Marrero, and a bizarre double play to end the game.
In the fourth inning, Marrero dove to stop a grounder up the middle, then threw out the runner from one knee.
“It’s an amazing play,” said center fielder Mookie Betts, who also has played alongside Marrero as a second baseman. “I’ve kind of gotten used to it. I wouldn’t expect anything less from him.”
New Britain threatened in the ninth off closer Noe Ramirez. The Rock Cats scored a run and had pinch-runner A.J. Petterson on first with one out. Reynaldo Rodriguez stroked a double to the left-field corner. Left fielder Peter Hissey got the ball to Marrero as Pettersen headed home.
But Pettersen slipped as Marrero threw home. Pettersen tried to get back to third base but catcher Blake Swihart threw him out.
Rodriguez had been cheating his way to third and turned back toward second base. Third baseman Derrik Gibson then threw him out to finish the game.
“Not how we scripted it,” McMillon said. “Fortunately for us their guy stumbled around third.
“Everybody was in the right spot and it worked out.”
The Sea Dogs (35-18) hold a 4½-game lead in the Eastern League East Division, ahead of second-place Binghamton (30-22). New Britain dropped to 22-29.
NOTES: The general-admission seats were packed with students on field trips for the 11 a.m. game. The announced paid attendance was 6,156. … Ramirez picked up his team-leading fifth save. … Betts, the team’s leading hitter, went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .350. … Reliever Jose Valdez was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket, filling in for Alex Wilson, who was sent to Boston on Wednesday. … Pitcher Mike McCarthy was activated and may start the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader in Trenton. If so, that means knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright will stay with Pawtucket. … After the series in Trenton, the Sea Dogs return to Hadlock Field for a six-day homestand beginning Tuesday.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: