Henry Owens did not dominate as spoiled fans at Hadlock Field are used to seeing.
But Owens did what he often does.
Owens became the first Portland Sea Dogs pitcher to win 14 games in a season as the Sea Dogs beat the Reading Fightin Phils 3-2 Tuesday night at Hadlock Field in the first game of a doubleheader.
In the second game, Reading beat Portland 4-1. Portland’s Ryan Dent went 5 for 6 in the two games.
Owens improved to 14-4, bettering the wins total of two Sea Dogs stalwarts from their Marlins affiliate days – Tony Saunders (1996) and Michael Tejera (’99).
Owens is also still the winningest pitcher in the minor leagues this year, although Tuesday was not one of his most dominating performances. He lasted only five innings (97 pitches), allowing two runs on six hits, two walks and two hit-batters. He struck out three as his ERA inched up to 2.60, which is still best in the Eastern League.
“I felt good,” Owens said, “but my arm was maybe a little too loose. Had a bit of a run in on lefties (the two hit-batters). Don’t like to see that, but I moved on.”
Aaron Kurcz earned his third save with two scoreless innings, although it was not easy. Kurcz gave up a one-out double in the sixth and a leadoff double in the seventh, stranding both. Third baseman Dent made a diving stop of a hard grounder and threw out the runner to end the game.
As usual, speculation persists that Owens is nearing the end of his stay with the Sea Dogs. With the major league trade deadline on Thursday, Owens could be making his next start for any number of teams.
Possibility one is Triple-A Pawtucket. If Boston trades a starter (Jon Lester) or two (John Lackey), a domino effect could occur with Pawtucket pitchers moving up, making room for Owens.
Possibility two is another organization. Is there a chance General Manager Ben Cherington is engineering a blockbuster deal that would involve his top pitching prospect?
Possibility three is to remain in Portland. Owens just turned 22 and there is no need to rush him.
As expected, Owens said he pays little attention to the speculation. “If I had a crystal ball, I’d be a stock broker,” he said.
Wherever he lands, Owens is already considered one of the best pitchers to wear a Sea Dogs uniform.
On Tuesday, he got offensive support from Dent (RBI single, double), Derrik Gibson (RBI double) and Blake Swihart (double, run).
In the second game, Reading beat Portland starter Jeremy Kehrt (1-2), who allowed four runs over 51/3 innings.
The Sea Dogs (70-41) moved closer to the Eastern League playoffs and, after New Britain lost Tuesday, reduced their magic number to 17.
NOTES: Right-handed pitcher Justin Haley arrived from Class A Salem and is scheduled to start Thursday. Haley was 7-4 with a 2.82 in Salem … The announced paid attendance was 5,348 … Pitcher Keith Couch, on the disabled list with a sore elbow, started a Gulf Coast League game, pitching 21/3 innings (one hit, three strikeouts) … About 750 tickets remain for Wednesday’s noon game, although unused season tickets may also be available.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: