AKRON, Ohio — The Portland Sea Dogs were looking to get back to their winning ways, and left-hander Henry Owens was ready to make that a reality Saturday night.
Owens broke the Sea Dogs’ scoreless innings record during the game against the Akron RubberDucks, scattering six hits with one run, a walk and seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Two runs in the ninth clinched a 6-1 victory for the Sea Dogs in a game between the Eastern League’s division leaders in front of a sellout crowd of 8,107 fans at Canal Park.
Portland improved to 43-33. Akron fell to 40-29.
“I think it started with (Owens) getting ahead of hitters,” Portland Manager Billy McMillon said. “He had three pitches working – fastball, curveball, change. He worked ahead in the count and kept their hitters off balance.
“As the competitor he is, he could have gone past the seventh inning. Even though he was at 97 pitches he probably could have gone longer.”
With a second-inning strikeout of Jake Lowery, Owens set Portland’s record for scoreless inning streak at 24 1/3. That string was extended to 272/3 before Joe Wendle’s one-out RBI single in the sixth.
“It’s not too important,” said Owens, who lowered his ERA from 2.24 to 2.16 and improved to 8-3. “I’m not focused on things like that.
“I’m just focused on development and I feel like I took another step forward in that department, so I’m happy about that.”
Facing one of the best hitting teams in the league, with a lineup led by two of the Cleveland Indians’ top prospects in Tyler Naquin, who extended his hitting streak to 16 games, and Francisco Lindor, Owens also relied on his defense to make some good plays.
Shortstop Deven Marrero made a big play in the fifth when he threw out Anthony Gallas at third following a leadoff double.
“They put a lot of good swings on balls early,” Owens said. “They’re a good hitting team. They were good last year in the Carolina League and I faced a lot of the same guys there last year. I faced Francisco for a couple years now so I know how good he is. It was a nice challenge.
“With (Marrero) at short, it’s automatic with him. He made a head’s-up throw to third to prevent a run there. They do a great job every night.”
Blake Swihart, who went 2 for 4 with two RBI, led off the sixth by drilling the first pitch he saw way over the right-field wall for his seventh home run of the season. The ball almost landed in the kids’ play area, which is atop the right-field bleachers at street level.
The blast extended Portland’s lead to 2-0.
The Sea Dogs added another run in the seventh on a wild pitch by Blake Sturdevant that scored Keury De La Cruz, and roughed up a former top prospect, Adam Miller, by sending eight men to the plate and scoring twice more in the ninth.
“It’s June,” McMillon said. “No one’s thinking records on our side. I don’t know what they’re doing over there. We’ve still got 75 games to go.
“This isn’t going to make any kind of determination on postseason play. There’s probably going to be a lot of turnover on our roster and on theirs too before this is all over.”