March 17, 2010

Problems, but not for Sea Dogs

KEVIN THOMAS

— By

Staff Writer

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — The game was nearly posponed because of problems with the infield dirt.

Then the power went out.

What else could go wrong in the Portland Sea Dogs' opener Thursday night at New Britain Stadium?

For the Sea Dogs, not much.

Bubba Bell singled in the winning run in the eighth inning and Portland added two runs in the ninth for a 3-0 victory against the New Britain Rock Cats.

Jose Vaquedano recorded the win with 11/3 innings of relief. Hunter Jones and Beau Vaughan each pitched out of jams in the later innings.

Most encouraging for the Sea Dogs was starter Justin Masterson. He pitched four innings, allowing three hits, two of them infield singles.

Masterson had his sinker working, inducing seven groundouts, and struck out three. He walked none, throwing 53 pitches, 36 for strikes.

''The sinker was doing real good,'' Masterson said. ''The slider was OK. Threw a couple of change-ups in there. I was real happy.''

The Sea Dogs cut Masterson's outing short because of the delay.

During the first inning, the umpires asked for the lights to be turned on. Instead the scoreboard went blank as New Britain Stadium lost power. After the inning, with darkness approaching, the umpires stopped play.

Technicians were called and after a 27-minute delay, play resumed.

The power outage followed some pregame drama as the umpires considered if the infield was suitable for play. The dirt around the bases had been dug out recently and was very soft.

''If this wasn't an opener we wouldn't play,'' Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler said.

But they did play and the dirt wasn't a big issue. And while Masterson cruised, New Britain starter Ryan Mullins matched him, throwing a two-hit shutout over five innings.

Daniel Haigwood relieved Masterson and got into trouble in the fifth, loading the bases on a single and two walks.

He got out of the jam, getting shortstop prospect Trevor Plouffe to watch a wicked curve for strike three.

The Sea Dogs threatened in the sixth when Iggy Suarez singled and reached third with one out.

But Suarez was easily thrown out trying to score on Bell's soft grounder to third.

''I was anxious and reached for an outside fastball, which was not what I was looking for,'' Bell said.

''In my next (at-bat) I told myself not to get too geared up and stay patient.''

In the eighth, Sean Danielson began a two-out rally off Armando Gabino (0-1) with a double to right-center. Tony Granadillo drew his third walk of the night. Bell came up and this time looked for an outside fastball.

It came and Bell lined a single off the outstretched glove of Plouffe into left field. Danielson raced home.

Vaquedano, the side-armer, relieved Haigwood with two outs in the sixth and looked strong for 11/3 innings.

But in the bottom of the eighth, Plouffe reached on Suarez's error at short. Then Vaquedano hit Brock Peterson. Jones entered and both runners advanced on his wild pitch.

Jones got three outs on two grounders -- Plouffe was thrown out at home by Granadillo, the third baseman -- and a soft liner to second.

Portland scored two in the ninth on doubles by Zach Daeges and Jay Johnson, and Suarez's third single.

Jones walked two with two outs in the ninth. Vaughan entered and got the save when Plouffe popped to short.

''We pitched (well), got some clutch hits and played pretty good defense,'' Beyeler said.

NOTES: In the third inning, Felix Molina of New Britain got a good jump on his steal attempt, but catcher Mark Wagner fired a strike to second for the out. The paid attendance was announced as 5,289. The actual attendance was less than half of that.

BARTOLO COLON allowed one hit through five innings as the Pawtucket Red Sox opened their International League season with a 3-0 victory against visiting Indianapolis.

''I know I'll be pitching again in five days,'' Colon said through an interpreter. ''I'm not sure if it will be here or with the big club.''

Colon threw 45 of 74 pitches for strikes and topped out at 96 mph.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

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