PORTLAND — Mitch Dening stood in the on-deck circle.

But that is not where the Portland Sea Dogs needed him.

Dening lately has been the Sea Dogs’ clutch hitter, but he did not get a chance in the ninth inning.

With one runner on base, New Britain Rock Cats reliever Matt Schuld struck out the next three batters, leaving Dening waiting and the Sea Dogs with a 5-4 loss Saturday night before a sold-out Hadlock Field crowd of 7,368.

Dening came through earlier in the game with two-out hits, a two-run single in the fifth and an RBI single in the seventh.

In Friday night’s comeback win over New Britain, Dening hit a two-run double to tie the game in the eighth.

“He’s been really good the last couple of nights,” said Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles, who also managed Dening last year with Class A Salem. “He’s starting to come around. He’s coming off a pretty good month (hitting .310 in June).

“He did this last year. He started slow in Salem, turned the corner and ended up finishing strong.”

Boles hopes his Sea Dogs (36-56) can finish strong after the All-Star break, but they are 1-2 so far, with two one-run losses to New Britain (47-44).

The Sea Dogs and Rock Cats know each other well, going back to Fort Myers, Fla., where both have spring training and play several exhibitions against each other.

But Saturday featured a new twist as New Britain started Deinys Suarez, a Cuban who signed with the Minnesota Twins in April.

In his first start against Portland, Suarez mixed his pitches well and was perfect through four innings.

Chih-Hsien Chiang broke up the no-hitter in the fifth with a leadoff single. Both Chiang and Matt Spring (double) scored on Dening’s hit up the middle.

In the seventh, back-to-back doubles by Chiang and Will Middlebrooks produced a run, and Dening singled to score Middlebrooks for a 4-4 tie.

Chris Balcom-Miller started for the Sea Dogs and went six innings, giving up eight hits and four runs.

In the top of the ninth, Portland reliever Kyle Fernandes (0-4) hit Chris Herrmann with a pitch with one out.

Herrmann was running on the pitch when Nate Hanson hit a looping single to center. Herrmann initially held up, then bolted for third base. Center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker charged the ball but then threw toward second base.

“I thought we had a play at third,” Boles said.

Herrmann scored on Chris Parmelee’s sacrifice fly.

Chiang led off the ninth with a walk. Schuld, recently called up from Class A, struck out Middlebrooks, Spring and Jon Hee.

Dening would have been up next.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases