Sunday, March 9, 2014
By ALLEN LESSELS Special to the Press Herald
MANCHESTER, N.H. - It's simple and straightforward.
WHO: Trenton Thunder (Mikey O'Brien 7-7) at Portland Sea Dogs (Chris Hernandez 1-0)
WHEN: 6 p.m.
OF NOTE: The Sea Dogs must sweep this weekend's five-game set with Trenton to make the playoffs.
The Sea Dogs kept their playoff hopes alive with a 9-3 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Thursday night at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
To turn the hopes into a playoff berth they must win five straight games at home against the Trenton Thunder, the team they are chasing for the second Eastern Division slot in the postseason tournament.
"We control our own destiny and there's a lot to be said for that, being in the last week and heading into the last series," said Portland Manager Kevin Boles. "Hopefully we can put together our best baseball at the end of the year here."
The Sea Dogs open the five- games-in-four-days set with Trenton tonight at Hadlock Field at 6 p.m. The teams play a pair on Saturday beginning at 5 p.m. and close things out with games on Sunday and Monday at 1 p.m. each day.
Portland improved to 67-70 with the win. The Fisher Cats were eliminated from playoff consideration with the loss.
Right fielder J.C. Linares had another huge game for the Sea Dogs with a triple, two doubles and a single in five at-bats.
He was 7 for 9 in the last two nights here and 17 for 35 with three home runs, four doubles, a triple and 12 RBI on the team's eight-game road trip.
"He's been fun to watch," said center fielder Shannon Wilkerson, who got the Sea Dogs started with a leadoff home run. "He's really coming around and holding down the four-spot in the order. And it's perfect timing. He's coming up big when we need him."
Portland starter Keith Couch gave up seven hits over his six innings, struck out five and walked one and ran his record to 11-3. Two of the runs he allowed were earned.
Miguel Celestino and Rafael Perez took care of the last three innings and did not allow a run.
The Sea Dogs jumped in front quickly.
After Wilkerson's homer, Garin Cecchini made it to third when his ground ball got past the first baseman and went into the right-field corner for a three-base error. Cecchini ran his on-base streak to 38 games on the play. He scored on a Christian Vazquez ground out.
The Fisher Cats took the lead with a single run in the second inning and a pair in the third.
Deven Merrero scored on Cecchini's sacrifice to tie it at 3-3 in the fourth. Linares doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a double-play ball and Portland led 4-3 in the sixth.
The Sea Dogs pulled away with two more runs in the eighth. Vazquez walked to open the inning and Linares contributed his second double. Tony Thomas knocked in Linares with a single and Thomas scored on Michael Almanzar's grounder.
Linares belted a two-run triple and then scored on a wild pitch to close out the scoring in the ninth.
"This has been the best baseball we've played since early in the year," Wilkerson said.
FORMER SEA DOG Anthony Ranaudo was named the right-handed starting pitcher on the Eastern League All-Star team. Ranaudo was 8-4 with a 2.95 earned-run average before he was called up to Pawtucket on Aug. 2.