RICHMOND, Va. — When Keith Couch took the mound Saturday night, it had been nearly two months since he appeared in a Portland Sea Dogs uniform.
Couch, who had been on the disabled list because of soreness in his right elbow, picked up where he left off in mid-June, allowing one unearned run in 42/3 innings as the Sea Dogs beat Richmond 12-7 in 11 innings before a crowd of 8,687.
Portland’s bullpen faltered for the third straight game, giving up three runs in the eighth and one in the ninth to let a 6-2 lead slip away. After a sacrifice fly by David Chester in the 10th put the Sea Dogs ahead 7-6, the Squirrels tied it again on a pinch homer by Devin Harris.
Finally, Portland scored five in the 11th, the last four on a grand slam by Michael Almanzar to end a nine-game losing streak to Richmond dating to 2012.
Prior to the late craziness, Couch held the Squirrels to three hits, striking out two and walking two on 68 pitches.
“I felt great,” said Couch, who made two rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League before returning to the Sea Dogs. “It’s exciting to be back. I missed being here, the atmosphere. It’s not fun being hurt, but I’m good to go now. I’ve been good for a while, thankfully
“I was maybe a little rusty. I threw a ball away at first (on a pickoff attempt), then I spiked another (wild pitch). Other than that I felt great. The biggest thing was to slow down and not let the emotions of being back take control of me.”
The Sea Dogs scored first, taking advantage of a Richmond error in the first inning.
Shannon Wilkerson reached on an infield single and stole second before going to third on a groundout. With the infield in, Almanzar sent a bouncer to shortstop Kelby Tomlinson, who let the ball skid under his glove as Wilkerson scored.
Richmond got the run back in the bottom of the first without a hit. A two-base error on a pickoff attempt by Couch allowed Tomlinson to reach third, and he scored on a wild pitch.
Portland took a 3-1 lead in the fourth. Mike Miller opened with a single to center and stole second. He stayed there when Almanzar reached on a slow roller to third. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch by Richmond starter Clayton Blackburn.
Miller came home on a single to right by Chester and Almanzar scored on a sacrifice fly by Keury De La Cruz.
Mike McCarthy relieved Couch with two outs in the fifth and struck out Skyler Stromsmoe with runners at the corners.
“Couch has been solid all year,” said Portland Manager Billy McMillon. “We had him on a pitch count. He looked good.”
The Squirrels pulled within a run in the sixth on Mario Lisson’s 16th homer of the season and second in two nights.
Portland added to its lead in the seventh, getting a sacrifice fly by Carson Blair, an RBI single by Stefan Welch and a run-producing double by Wilkerson to make it 6-2.
Then Portland’s bullpen allowed the lead to slip away.
“That’s baseball,” said McMillon of the bullpen. “We were able to come up big there in the final inning. No concerns (about the bullpen). We battled. They battled. We were fortunate to come out on top.”
NOTES: The Sea Dogs placed infielder Sean Coyle, their leading hitter (.309), on the disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8. Coyle sprained his right ankle Thursday, legging out an infield single against Bowie. … Richmond hitting coach Ken Joyce lives in Portland.