NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Despite the Portland Sea Dogs managing only five hits Saturday night in a 5-0 loss to the New Britain Rock Cats before 4,894 at New Britain Stadium, second baseman Sean Coyle disagreed that the offense is struggling.
The Sea Dogs have totaled two runs in the first three games of the series, but Coyle insists the team is hitting in hard luck.
“I feel if you just have your nose in the scorebook you might think that the offense is struggling a little bit, but we’re hitting balls on the nose right at guys,” said Coyle, who had two hits.
“We’re hitting balls to the warning track and having good (at-bats). Sometimes you just hit a bunch of balls right at guys and end up not scoring some runs.”
After needing only Coyle’s sacrifice fly to edge the Rock Cats 1-0 on Friday, Portland was shut down by Tyler Duffey (7-2) and Jim Fuller, who combined on a five-hitter.
Duffey scattered five hits over seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.
On Friday, the Sea Dogs overcame their lack of offense, riding a combined one-hitter by Brian Johnson and Noe Ramirez. Johnson struck out a career-high 12 over seven innings.
They weren’t as fortunate Saturday.
The Rock Cats reached Portland starter Wilfredo Boscan (3-5) for six runs and 10 hits over 42/3 innings in a spot start.
If not for Johnson’s gem, the Sea Dogs might have a four-game losing streak, but Manager Billy McMillon echoed Coyle’s remarks.
“We hit a couple hard balls that turned into double plays,” he said. “We’ve put together good at-bats. We just haven’t found holes. We left a lot of runners on base. It’s just kind of one of those ruts we’re in.”
Six of the hits Boscan allowed were doubles, including three straight in the fourth when New Britain scored three runs to open a 4-0 lead.
Aaron Hicks’ second double of the game drove in two runs to give New Britain a 6-0 lead and end Boscan’s night.
“His pitch count was getting up so it was an opportunity to get somebody else in the ballgame,” McMillon said.
The Sea Dogs’ lead was sliced to 31/2 games over Binghamton in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division, but there’s no real concern in the clubhouse. The top two teams make the playoffs, and the Sea Dogs lead third-place New Britain by 14 games.
“We’re not hanging our head about anything,” Coyle said. “We’re just looking to continue what we’re doing and balls will start falling in for us. We’re not going to start changing anything now.”
New Britain scored on Brandon Waring’s RBI in the second, then made it 4-0 in the fourth on run-scoring doubles by Hicks and Waring and an RBI single by Brad Boyer.
Waring (two RBI) had two doubles for the Rock Cats, who collected eight overall.
Portland didn’t get a runner past second base; all of its hits were singles. Only in the first did the Sea Dogs get two runners on in the same inning.
“Nobody’s panicking over here,” McMillon said. “I challenge you to show me the team that goes 162-0, or in our case, 142-0.”
The Rock Cats got their final run on Matt Koch’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.