MANCHESTER — The New Hampshire Fisher Cats' playoff hopes took a hit with a 10-5 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs in front of 6,429 fans at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium Monday night.
New Hampshire dropped to 66-68, one game ahead of Portland (65-69) and 3½ behind Trenton for second place and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The teams play again tonight at 6:35. Henry Owens (2-0) starts for Portland against Marcus Stroman (8-4).
Portland broke the game open with four runs in the top of the ninth to pull ahead 10-5. Derrik Gibson led off with a single and Shannon Wilkerson followed with a bunt single. Garin Cecchini flied out to right, but Christian Vazquez singled home Gibson and J.C. Linares followed with a three-run home run to center. It was Linares' second three-run blast of the game.
Sea Dogs reliever Noe Ramirez worked a one-two-three ninth inning to finish off the game and pick up his fifth save (also working four outs prior to the ninth). Portland starter Miguel Pena (1-0) got the win. Fisher Cats reliever Randy Boone was saddled with the loss to drop to 3-3.
The game was a back-and-forth affair. Portland trailed 5-3 in the seventh inning but plated three to take a 6-5 lead. Wilkerson stroked a one-out single and Vazquez walked with two outs. Boone came on to relieve starter Marcus Walden and Linares greeted him with a home run to left field to give the Sea Dogs the lead.
New Hampshire threatened in the bottom of the seventh with runners on first and second with two outs, but Ramirez came on and struck out Andy Burns to preserve the lead. It was the last time the Fisher Cats would place runners on base.
Second baseman John Tolisano hit a solo home run to center field in the bottom of the fifth to break a 3-3 tie and give the Fisher Cats their first lead of the night at 4-3. New Hampshire added a single run in the sixth to make it 5-3 when Kevin Nolan tripled and Gabe Jacobo dropped a single into right field with two outs to score Nolan.
Portland took a 2-0 lead in top of the second innings. Leadoff hitter Michael Almanzar doubled and scored on a two-out Ryan Dent single through the third base-shortstop hole. Dent moved to second on a bad pickoff throw from Walden and then scored on a Gibson single into left field.
The Sea Dogs made it 3-0 with a run in the third. Cecchini led off with a double and Almanzar singled into center field with two outs to score Cecchini.
New Hampshire tied the game at 3-3 with three runs in the fourth. Nolan doubled and scored on an Adam Loewen single to make it 3-1. Jacobo then belted his seventh homer of the year, dropping a shot over the center field fence to even the score.