Friday, December 13, 2013
By MARK JEANNERET Special to the Press Herald
PORTLAND - Caleb Clay had a feeling his success would have a positive impact on the game.
The Portland Sea Dogs reliever was handed the ball in the most difficult of circumstances Friday night against the Binghamton Mets. He came on in the seventh inning with the bases loaded, none out and his team trailing by two runs.
Clay made quick work of the situation. A popup and an around-the-horn double play got the Sea Dogs out of the jam and set the stage for a come-from-behind 4-3 victory in front of an announced crowd of 3,301 at Hadlock Field.
"I was talking to somebody in the dugout and they said they thought that was the turning point in the game," said Clay, who earned the victory with two hitless innings. "I think so, too.
"Bases loaded and no outs, basically you just have to try and limit the damage. I was just trying to get ground balls and let the defense work, and that's basically what happened."
The Sea Dogs (2-7) took advantage of the momentum shift with a pair of late-inning home runs.
Juan Carlos Linares hit a two-run homer in the eighth to give the Sea Dogs their first lead of the game, 4-3.
Linares, who has homered in back-to-back games and has three on the season, has been the Sea Dogs' most consistent hitter. He collected two hits, and scored two runs, and has hit safely in eight of nine games this season. He's reached base in all nine games.
"(Linares) has done a tremendous job and he's versatile on defense," said Portland Manager Kevin Boles. "We can put him at all three (outfield) positions. Offensively he's been a guy that's put together a real quality approach. He's an aggressive hitter and we definitely like what we're seeing."
Binghamton (3-4) jumped on Portland starter Chris Hernandez early. Eric Campbell stroked a three-run homer over the left-field wall to give the Mets a 3-0 lead in the first.
Binghamton starter Zack Wheeler was outstanding as he kept the Sea Dogs in check. The New York Mets' No. 1 prospect, according to Baseball America, struck out the first four batters, started nine of the first 11 hitters with a strike, and allowed only one ball to leave the infield in the first four innings.
He finished with nine strikeouts in six innings.
"That's as good an arm as you'll see," said Boles. "It's a quality arm and he comes right after you. He has a quality mix and you could tell when we had the bases loaded and nobody out (in the fifth), he dialed it up a notch. That's what the good ones do, and he has a bright future ahead of him."
Portland got a run off Wheeler in the sixth when Linares scored on a sacrifice fly by Oscar Tejeda to make it 3-1.
Bryce Brentz hit a two-out solo home run in the seventh to cut the deficit to 3-2.
NOTES: Portland's Billy Buckner is schedule to face Darin Gorski in the third game of the four-game series at 1 p.m. at today. Buckner, who took the loss in his first appearance of the season against Trenton, is the lone player on the Sea Dogs roster with major league experience. The right-hander appeared in 36 games with Kansas City and Arizona from 2007-10.