NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Keury De La Cruz had been struggling at the plate since coming off the disabled list, but that changed in a huge way Sunday afternoon.

The left fielder led off the top of the ninth inning with a game-tying home run as the Portland Sea Dogs rallied for an 8-5, 11-inning victory over the New Britain Rock Cats before 3,845 at New Britain Stadium.

De La Cruz’s homer set the stage for Danny Bethea to win it with a bases-loaded, two-run double in the 11th in only his second game with the Sea Dogs.

De La Cruz also had a two-run double in the sixth to help Portland overcome a 5-1 deficit.

“I think his at-bats have been kind of up and down,” Sea Dogs Manager Billy McMillon said of De La Cruz, who had been 2 for 15 since returning to the lineup. “But down a run, late in the ballgame, to get a pitch that he could handle and drive it, I’m sure it gave him a spark and it certainly gave the team a spark.

“Hopefully, going forward, this is something he can build on.”

Nearly five hours after the scheduled first pitch – the start was delayed 75 minutes because of rain – the Sea Dogs pounded the music in the clubhouse after one of their most satisfying wins of the season.

For the first time this year, they won a game on the road when trailing after eight innings (1-18). With regular catcher Blake Swihart getting a day off, Michael Brenly started behind the plate and Bethea was inserted into the lineup as the designated hitter.

“It’s an amazing feeling, only being my second game,” Bethea said. “Billy allowed me to play today. I was very grateful. I wasn’t trying to do too much, just keep the line moving.”

The Sea Dogs added another run in the 11th on Heiker Meneses’ sacrifice fly.

Michael Almanzar singled and Jonathan Roof doubled to put runners on second and third with nobody out in the 11th. The Rock Cats intentionally walked Brenly after Ryan O’Rourke (1-2) fell behind 2-0, setting up a possible double play or force play at the plate with an inexperienced hitter due up.

“That’s the right baseball move, especially because (O’Rourke) got down 2-0 quick,” said Bethea, who finished 2 for 5. “Brenly’s a good hitter. They didn’t want to give in to him, and I’m the next guy.”

Through five innings, the Sea Dogs were held to two hits by Rock Cats starter Virgil Vasquez, one of them a solo homer by Roof. But De La Cruz’s double capped a three-run rally in the sixth as Portland pulled within 5-4.

“It’s a good win because for three quarters of the ballgame, it seemed like we were kind of dead,” McMillon said. “I don’t know if it had anything to do with the delay, but we just couldn’t get things going.”

The Sea Dogs received superb work from the bullpen as Pete Ruiz, Dayan Diaz (1-0) and Noe Ramirez combined for six scoreless innings in relief of starter Luis Diaz.

Dayan Diaz pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th after New Britain’s Michael Kvasnicka nearly won it with a three-run homer on a ball just foul down the right-field line.

The Sea Dogs, who gained a split of the four-game series, begin an eight-game homestand Monday against Reading.

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