Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By MICK REINHARD Special to the Press Herald
HARRISBURG, Pa. - In a matchup of highly touted pitching prospects, Portland's Henry Owens outdueled Harrisburg's A.J. Cole as the Sea Dogs coasted to a 4-1 victory Friday night at Metro Bank Park.
WHO: Portland Sea Dogs (Matt Barnes 5-8) at Harrisburg Senators (Matt Swynenberg 3-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
Owens, making his third start for the Sea Dogs, struggled early with his command but then dominated Harrisburg to earn his second Double-A victory.
Owens struck out 10 over five innings without allowing a hit and retired the last 12 batters he faced before yielding to reliever Jeremy Kehrt.
The Senators got on the board with an unearned run in the first inning when leadoff batter Billy Burns walked, advanced on a passed ball, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
Owens (2-0) walked two more batters in the inning, then hit the leadoff man in the second, but the lanky southpaw didn't allow anyone else to reach base.
Owens, who also had back-to-back hitless starts last month before his promotion from Class A Salem, now has 29 strikeouts in 15 innings with the Sea Dogs.
"To see him settle in and the way he handled himself ... he didn't have his best command out of the gate, but I thought he did a real nice job executing his three pitches," Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said.
"Once he got into a rhythm and established a pretty good tempo, he was able to repeat his delivery."
Harrisburg batters were kept off balance by Owens' change-up, which he used to strike out the side in two of his five innings.
"If you look at all three of his pitches (fastball, curveball and change-up), his arm speed is the same with all three. With the change-up, he feels comfortable throwing it any count," Boles said.
"I think being able to establish a few fastballs on the inner half to the right-handed batters also helped the effectiveness of that change-up. It's definitely something he has a feel for."
The Sea Dogs grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth. First baseman Michael Almanzar drove in Deven Marrero from second base to collect his team-leading 70th RBI of the season, then raced home one batter later on a throwing error by Harrisburg shortstop Jason Martinson.
Portland tacked on a run in the seventh on consecutive hits by Christian Vazquez, Travis Shaw and Ronald Bermudez that chased Cole from the game. Ryan Dent greeted reliever Matt Grace with a fielder's choice grounder that scored Bermudez to make it 4-1.
"To be able to get those two extra runs did give us a little bit of a cushion, but with this (Harrisburg) offense you have to give our pitchers a lot of credit because they have a lot of weapons with their team speed, guys that can run the bases and force the action," said Boles.
Kehrt bridged the gap to the back end of the bullpen, allowing two hits while striking out four in three innings.
"He commanded the zone," said Boles. "He had a little sink to his fastball and he was able to use his secondary pitches effectively."
Rafael Perez worked around a hit and a walk in the ninth, striking out Destin Hood looking with men on first and second to pick up his fourth save.