BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The 2014 season has been made up predominantly of highs for the Portland Sea Dogs.
The lowest point arrived Thursday.
Not only did the Eastern League-leading Sea Dogs lose a fourth straight game for the first time this season, they did so by their largest margin of the season, 13-3 to the charging Binghamton Mets.
All the wins in the first three-plus months made it easy for Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon to say “nobody’s panicking” when the team dropped the first three games of this series.
But matters got worse Thursday.
The Sea Dogs struggled in all facets of the game as the Mets completed the sweep by a combined 31-8.
Portland didn’t manage a baserunner for the first four innings, then struck out in order in the ninth. After the Sea Dogs closed within a run in the sixth, the bullpen gave up seven hits while getting seven outs. The defense committed three errors, misplayed two potential double-play balls and yielded seven unearned runs.
If any of that was reason for McMillon to address his players any differently before starting a homestand Friday night, he wasn’t saying.
“Even if there was something, do you think I would make that public?” McMillon asked.
Second-place Binghamton, which sandwiched 11-4 and 13-3 routs around a doubleheader sweep in this series, allowed just one harmless seventh-inning run while cutting Portland’s margin in the Eastern Division from eight games to four.
Before getting a breather with the All-Star break, the Sea Dogs have five home games in four days this weekend. They are 29-13 at home and 30-20 on the road.
Binghamton opened a 4-0 lead in the second inning Thursday but when both starting pitchers did a reversal, Portland made the game close.
By the time both starters left in the sixth inning, the Sea Dogs had cut the deficit to one run.
Luis Diaz (3-2) had trouble making it through the second inning for the Sea Dogs. The Mets scored four times when Diaz allowed five straight batters to reach, including walking one batter, hitting another and throwing an errant pickoff attempt to score a run.
After the five straight reached, Diaz retired 13 of his final 14 batters, including strikeouts on seven of the last 12.
Steven Matz (2-1) of Binghamton didn’t allow a runner until Sean Coyle’s double to lead off the fifth. That began a stretch in which the last nine batters Matz faced went 4 for 7 with two doubles, a walk and a sacrifice.
Coyle scored on Keury De La Cruz’s two-out single in the fifth, and Blake Swihart’s one-out double off the left-field fence brought in two more runs and chased Matz from the mound.
“We’ve won games where we’ve only scored three runs,” McMillon said.
But the bullpen and defense couldn’t keep the Sea Dogs in this one.
Binghamton completed the rout with four runs in the seventh and five unearned runs in the eighth, including Travis Taijeron’s three-run homer.
“They’re a real good team,” Taijeron said.
“At the beginning of the year they were unbeatable. They had a lot of guys like Travis Shaw and Mookie Betts.
“We’re having a lot of fun right now and we’re really confident.”