He did not begin the season as one of the touted Boston Red Sox pitching prospects.
But Justin Haley’s name has to begin entering the conversation, doesn’t it?
Haley (2-2) continued to cruise through Double-A like he’s been there all season. He pitched six shutout innings Monday night to pace the Portland Sea Dogs to a 3-0 victory over the Reading Fightin Phils before 5,759 at Hadlock Field.
It was Portland’s 10th straight win, the longest win streak since the Sea Dogs won 10 in a row in 2006.
David Chester hit a solo home run and Mike Miller and Stefan Welch added RBI doubles to help improve Portland to 85-50 – one win away from tying the best record in franchise history (86-56 in 1995).
The Sea Dogs also came closer to clinching first place in the Eastern League East Division. They lead Binghamton (82-52) by 2½ games. The Mets beat New Britain 4-1 on Monday.
Portland’s magic number is five (five wins or five Binghamton losses or any combination gives the Sea Dogs first place).
Last-place Reading dropped to 59-76.
Haley, 23, was a sixth-round draft pick in 2012 out of Fresno State. He was 7-11 (3.68) in low Class A Greenville last year, but began to shine this season, first in advanced Class A Salem (7-4, 2.82) and in Portland after his promotion July 31.
In his five Double-A starts, Haley has a 1.47 ERA with 24 strikeouts in 302/3 innings. Call it the power of positive thinking. Since midseason last year, Haley has utilized a mental performance coach, Dave Austin, based in Southern California.
“I speak with him (about once a week),” Haley said. “He preaches extreme focus. It’s been working great for me. I get in the zone before I throw an outing.”
On Monday, Haley began with a four-pitch walk. He settled down to allow no more walks and only four hits. He struck out five, utilizing an 89-92 mph fastball, change-up, slider and curve.
“Once he got command of his fastball, he was lights out,” catcher Carson Blair said. “Got a lot of ugly swings on his fastball and mixed in the other pitches well.”
Portland backed Haley with big hits, including Chester’s seventh homer, a blast to center field.
“We put some good swings together and kept the streak going,” Chester said.
Wilfredo Boscan relieved for two scoreless innings. Noe Ramirez finished with a 1-2-3 seven-pitch ninth for his 16th save.
That is now 21 straight scoreless innings by the Sea Dogs’ staff and 28 by the bullpen.
The Sea Dogs and Phils play again at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Binghamton has a doubleheader with New Britain.
NOTES: Former Boston Bruins forward Shawn Thornton (now with Florida) will throw out the first pitch Tuesday and be available for autographs … Former Sea Dogs third baseman Carlos Rivera was promoted to Boston on Monday to replace injured Xander Bogaerts. Rivera, 26, signed with Boston as a minor league free agent. He becomes the second player to start the season in Portland and reach the majors, following Mookie Betts … In Triple-A, Pawtucket regained the International League wild-card lead with a 6-2 win over Buffalo. Garin Cecchini hit a three-run double.