Dustin Pedroia was 0 for 4 as the Sea Dogs’ designated hitter in Thursday’s game at Hadlock Field. Pedroia said he’ll play with the Sea Dogs this weekend in Trenton, New Jersey. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

It’s never a good sign when a position player takes the mound in a baseball game. That usually means his team is on the wrong end of a long score.

So it was Thursday afternoon at Hadlock Field when Jerry Downs, the first baseman of the Portland Sea Dogs, pitched the ninth inning of an 11-1 loss to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. And wouldn’t you know it? Downs actually had the best pitching line of the afternoon for the Sea Dogs.

He set the Fisher Cats down in order, with a strikeout. Portland’s five other pitchers gave up 12 hits, walked 10 batters and hit a couple more.

On the other side? New Hampshire starter Patrick Murphy got his first win of the year with a dominating seven-inning performance. He took a no-hitter into the seventh, losing it there on a lead-off single by Brett Netzer. He struck out seven and walked only one. The Sea Dogs had just three base runners against him. He left with an 8-0 lead.

“He was able to establish the zone extremely well,” said Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver. “We didn’t really get many good swings on him. He was able to use the top and the bottom of the zone. Tip your hat to him. He looked like he had a really good shot at throwing the no-no.”

But Oliver said the Sea Dogs should still be able to take some momentum into their weekend series in Trenton.

“We won the series,” he said, noting the Portland wins on Tuesday and Wednesday. “And that’s the positive. You go out and win two of three, you put yourself in a good place.”

Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox second baseman on a rehab assignment with Portland, will stay with the Sea Dogs for their weekend series in Trenton. He’s unsure if he will return with the team on Monday when they play Hartford at Hadlock Field. “We’ll see how it goes,” he said.

Pedroia went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter on Thursday, reaching first base on an error in the first inning. He said he felt fine physically.

“It’s just a baseball game,” he said. “I’m just trying to get at-bats and get my timing and get used to swinging and doing everything again.”

Sea Dogs starter Tanner Houck (3-2) unraveled in the third inning, giving up back-to-back home runs to New Hampshire’s No. 8 and 9 hitters, Nash Knight (down the right field line for his second home run) and Vinny Capra (down the left field line for his first) to lead things off. Five batters later, Chad Spanberger singled in Forrest Wall for a 3-0 lead and Houck was gone, replaced by lefty Daniel McGrath.

Houck had been hit by a line drive in the second inning – off the bat of Spanberger – but didn’t appear to be injured and stayed in the game. More then anything, Oliver said, a lack of control hurt him and the relievers who followed. “You can’t survive going out there and walking 10 guys,” said Oliver. “That’s just not how you go out and give yourself a chance to win ballgames.”

The Fisher Cats put the game away in the fifth, sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring five times off McGrath. Spanberger had a sacrifice fly, Riley Adams an RBI single, Brock Lundquist a two-run double and Knight an RBI single.

NOTES: Downs, who pitched in high school, was the first position player to pitch for the Sea Dogs since Jordan Betts on Aug. 18, 2018, in an 18-1 loss at Erie. Downs said he was approached by pitching coach Paul Abbott about the possibility of pitching the ninth inning earlier in the game. His fastball topped out at 85 mph while his curve was clocked at 59 mph. “I felt pretty good,” said Downs. “I was just trying to throw strikes and get out of there as soon as possible. You see all these pitchers go in there just trying to throw strikes, and it’s not easy to do.”

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