Thursday, April 24, 2014
By BOB BIRGE Special to the Press Herald
NEW BRITAIN, Conn - It was a bizarre way to end a game, but the Portland Sea Dogs certainly will take it.
WHO: Sea Dogs (Drake Britton 3-2) at N.H. Fisher Cats (Marcus Walden 1-4)
WHEN: 6:35 p.m. Tuesday
Danny Santana was caught at first base for the final out after rounding the bag too far, and the Sea Dogs edged the New Britain Rock Cats 3-2 Sunday before 2,351 at New Britain Stadium, gaining a split of the four-game series.
Santana reached safely and made the turn after his dribbler down the first-base line hit the bag. First baseman Travis Shaw chased down the ball in shallow right field and fired to pitcher Brock Huntzinger, who applied the tag as Santana tried to dive back to the base.
"We're kind of trained that anything on the right side of the field you cover first base," said Huntzinger, who recorded the final five outs for his eighth save.
"I didn't really think we were going to get him, but he kept going and the ball didn't kick that far."
Portland catcher Matt Spring, who was 4 for 4 with two RBI, had an excellent view of the play from behind the plate.
"Off the bat, I thought the game's over because Shaw was on the line," Spring said.
"Two people did a great job. Shaw going after the ball, he could have quit on it, but he goes and gets the ball. Brock's over there on first base. That's two heads-up guys making a play."
The unusual ending preserved the win for Portland starter Anthony Ranaudo (5-1), who rebounded from his first loss of the season with six scoreless innings.
He allowed only three hits -- all singles -- with three walks and five strikeouts.
"I just went out there and tried to pound the zone," Ranaudo said.
"I had a good fastball early in the game, so I just tried to attack guys. We scored some runs early, so I was trying to have some quick innings."
The Sea Dogs grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Shannon Wilkerson led off with a double and scored on Tony Thomas' RBI single.
Spring provided some insurance for Ranaudo with a solo home run in the second and a run-scoring single in the fourth.
"He had good leverage to the fastball," Portland Manager Kevin Boles said of Ranaudo, the former LSU star.
"I thought he threw some real good breaking balls, (his) changeup was effective at times. But I thought the fastball command and leverage down in the zone were what he was able to do well today."
The Sea Dogs reached New Britain starter Logan Darnell (3-2) for 10 hits, but grounded into three double plays. The missed opportunities almost cost them as Keith Couch surrendered a two-run homer to Josmil Pinto in the eighth.
The Sea Dogs caught a break when Reynaldo Rodriguez was doubled off first on Dan Rohlfing's fly to center to end the eighth, setting the stage for the odd conclusion.
"What a terrific play by both those guys," Boles said.
"Shaw was in the right position Frustration could have gotten to him, but he chased after the ball and Huntzinger finished the play."
The Sea Dogs have already played New Britain 14 times, going 9-5. After an off-day Monday, Portland begins a three-game series at New Hampshire on Tuesday.
"It's been a real competitive series," Boles said. "It will be good to see somee different clubs for both of us."