April 17, 2013

1996: Yet another step forward

Portland again wins its division and reaches the Eastern League final, falling to Binghamton.

Carlos Tosca led the Sea Dogs (83-58) to their second consecutive Northern Division title with a solid blend of youth and experience. After a slow start, Portland won 56 of its final 86 games to take the Northern Division by 7½ games over second-place Binghamton.

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STAFF PHOTO BY DAVID MACDONALD -- Friday, August 30, 1996 -- Sea Dogs' shortstop Alex Gonzalez makes the relay to first base in an unsuccessful double play attempt in the third inning after making the force out on Reading Phillies' Scott Shores as Sea Dogs's second baseman Ralph Milliard watches.

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STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN PATRIQUIN -- Friday, August 16, 1996 -- Sea Dogs #11 Quinn Mack dives back to first safely to first against Harrisburg #40 Scott Talanoa during action at Hadlock Field.

Additional Photos Below

Affiliation: Florida Marlins
Manager: Carlos Tosca
Attendance: 408,503 (6,007 average)

Final standings

Northern Division
Team Aff W L Pct. GB
Portland 83 58 .589 -
Binghamton 76 66 .535 7.5
Norwich 71 70 .504 12
New Haven 66 75 .468 17
Hardware City 61 81 .430 22.5
Southern Division
Team Aff W L Pct. GB
Trenton 86 56 .606 -
Harrisburg 74 68 .521 12
Canton-Akron 71 71 .500 15
Reading 66 75 .468 19.5
Bowie 54 88 .380 32

Notable hitters

Player HR RBI SB Avg.
Kevin Millar 18 86 6 .318
Luis Castillo 1 35 51 .317
Todd Dunwoody 24 93 24 .277

Notable pitchers

Player W L SV ERA
Tony Saunders 13 4 0 2.63
Livan Hernandez 9 2 0 4.34
Felix Heredia 8 1 5 1.50

The pitching staff was the strength of this team. Tony Saunders led Portland with a 13-4 record to go with an ERA of 2.63, and also topped the league in strikeouts with 156. Top prospect Livan Hernandez won nine out of his 11 starts in the second half, while Felix Heredia had eight wins in nine decisions with a 1.50 ERA before getting called up by the Marlins on Aug. 8. Closer Bill Hurst had 30 saves, and Will Cunnane rebounded from a 2-8 start to win 10 games.

Center fielder Todd Dunwoody (.277, 24 homers and 93 RBI) paced the offense along with future Red Sox star and first baseman Kevin Millar (.318 average, 18 homers and 86 RBI). Dave Berg stabilized the defense by moving to shortstop and also hit .302. Luis Castillo was batting .317 and had stolen a team-record and league-leading 51 bases when he was called up to the big leagues on Aug. 8 with Heredia.

The Sea Dogs faced Binghamton in the first round of the playoffs to determine who would move on for the chance to play for the Eastern League championship. The five-game series went the distance with Portland advancing.

Next came the Harrisburg Senators. The Sea Dogs quickly dropped the first two games – 15-3 and 3-2 – before returning to Portland for an 8-5 victory. 

There was no victory for Portland in Game 4, but some still consider it one of the most memorable games in Sea Dogs history.  The Sea Dogs were training 6-1 in the ninth and facing elimination. After the third out in top of the ninth inning, the thousands of fans rose to their feet and began to applaud the efforts of the Sea Dogs. The fans remained on their feet and applauding throughout the entire bottom of the ninth and continued until the inning, game and season were over.

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Additional Photos

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STAFF PHOTO BY DOUG JONES -- Wednesday, April 17, 1996 -- Sea Dog, Kevin Millar, gets one of the very few hits for the dogs in the 7th or 8th.

  


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