Strong start not enough to overcome Sea Dogs

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Portland Sea Dogs

PORTLAND, MAINE – The New Hampshire Fisher Cats are back from the All-Star break, but their bats only made a brief appearance in their return to action.

New Hampshire lost 5-4 to the Portland Sea Dogs on Thursday night despite a strong start to the contest.

That start began with a single by Dalton Pompey, assigned to New Hampshire earlier in the day on a rehab assignment after a recent thumb injury. The Fisher Cats sent six more men to the plate before Portland could finally retire the side, with Cavan Biggio bringing Pompey across the plate and Max Pentecost knocking a three-run dinger before all was said and done.

A good cushion for New Hampshire starting pitcher Josh DeGraaf, but cracks began to appear quickly.

One inning after New Hampshire’s barrage, a Jhon Nunez line drive scored Tate Matheny, with touted Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis bringing the lead down to a run in the fifth with his first home run for Portland this season.

DeGraaf left after a Austin Rei single in the sixth, but the Sea Dogs continued to rally and the Fisher Cats’ bullpen continued its recent struggles.

New Hampshire reliever Kirby Snead inherited Rei and escaped a bases loaded jam in the sixth but began the seventh with walks to three of the first four batters he faced.

A passed ball during that stretch allowed Portland to tie the game up, and despite replacing Snead with Dusty Issacs, a sac fly from Matheny was all that was needed to bring Chavis home and provide the Sea Dogs their first lead.

New Hampshire stranded two runners in scoring position in the eighth in what would be their best chance to regain the lead.

Snead recorded just one out in the loss, falling to 2-3 on the season. Travis Lakins was the winning pitcher for Portland, climbing to 2-2 for his work in the seventh.

At the plate, Jeremy Rivera and Danny Mars each collected two hits for the Sea Dogs while Pompey, Pentecost and Harold Ramirez each had multiple hits for the Fisher Cats.

Both teams return to Hadlock Field on Friday at 7 p.m. with New Hampshire’s Tayler Saucedo (0-1, 10.80 ERA) facing Portland’s Teddy Stankiewicz (5-7, 5.14 ERA).

That game will not have top Toronto prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., although Guerrero passed follow-up tests earlier on Thursday and will begin a rehab assignment over the next few days with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.

Guerrero last played on June 6, leaving that game against Akron with a leg injury.