Maybe, said Portland Sea Dogs pitcher Kyle Hart, having Wednesday night off wasn’t so bad.

“Maybe the rainout was a good thing,” he said.

It sure looked that way Thursday afternoon. The Sea Dogs got stellar pitching performances from Hart and Matt Kent, plus some long-ball hitting, to sweep the Erie SeaWolves 9-1 and 5-0 at steamy Hadlock Field. Both games were seven innings.

Portland hit five home runs in the two games – a single-game seasonhigh four in the opener – to back the pitching of left-handers Hart and Kent.

Kent allowed five hits in six innings in the opener, striking out five and walking one. Hart, seeing what worked for Kent, was even better, allowing two hits and two walks, striking out five in the second game.

“Those guys, it seems like they’re always on,” said first baseman Josh Ockimey, who hit his team-high 15th home run in the opener. “When they step on the mound, it seems like you always have a good feeling about the day.”

And with good reason. Portland’s starting pitchers had the Eastern League’s second-best ERA (3.31) in July and began August by allowing one earned run in 13 innings. The starters have allowed 15 earned runs in the last 1002/3 innings they’ve pitched for a 1.34 ERA.

“Every time you see one of your teammates go out and do well, you want to see if you can go out and do a little better than he did,” said Kent. “Sort of pass the ball down the line. That’s what the starters have here, do your best, see what you get and pass it on to the next guy.”

Kent said he and Hart simply followed the scouting report on the SeaWolves: “Really busting the guys, making sure they’re not sitting on one side of the plate or one pitch, and pitching away from what they believe they want and making them swing at what we want.”

Kent (7-7) was backed by some power. Ockimey led off the second by hitting a 2-0 pitch 438 feet, three-quarters of the way up the green wall in center field that serves as the hitter’s backdrop. “A 2-0 count, an advantage count,” said Ockimey. “Don’t try to do too much, relax and see it.”

Other home runs in the opener were by Luke Tendler, his 11th, a 418-foot two-run shot over the right-field wall that was found in a lacrosse net at Fitzpatrick Stadium; Michael Chavis, his third, a 421-foot shot to center field; and Chad De La Guerra, his 11th, a 401-foot two-run shot to right.

Hart (7-7) watched Kent’s effort, then came out and did even better. “Watching him do it the first game kind of gives me a visual about how to do it myself,” said Hart. “It was good to watch him and it definitely helped me in the second game.”

But it wasn’t just pitching and hitting home runs. The Sea Dogs’ defense was exceptional as well, especially in the first inning of the second game.

Erie had runners on first and second with two outs when Isaac Paredes hit a drive into the gap in left-center field. Portland left fielder Deiner Lopez raced over to make the catch in the gap and save two runs.

“That probably saves my outing,” said Hart. “Maybe not saved it but definitely boosted it. I thought off the bat it was a double and two runs, and that’s not how you want to start it.”

Portland got a run in the second off a wild pitch by Erie starter Beau Burrows and another in the fourth when De La Guerra was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Then Austin Rei hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-0.

“That one kind of broke it open,” said Portland Manager Darren Fenster. “I thought we played really well in both games.”

NOTES: After the game, Ockimey and pitcher Mike Shawaryn got word that they were being called up to Triple-A Pawtucket. Ockimey leads the team in home runs and Shawaryn leads the team with a 3.28 ERA. “I’m very honored to be called up,” said Ockimey, whose last at-bat was an RBI double. “I’m very excited to go up there and play.” Shawaryn, who was 6-8 with 99 strikeouts, said, “It’s really exciting to get one step closer to the ultimate goal. It’s really a blessing for all your hard work, in the offseason and during the season … it’s starting to pay off. And it’s nice to go up with Josh. It was a fun time in Portland.” … Game 1 was played in 2:11, Game 2 in 2:02.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH