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Sea Dogs take command in Game 209/14/2006 12:48 AM ET
By Stephanie Storm / Special to MLB.com
AKRON, Ohio -- There was a 49-minute rain delay to begin the second game of the Eastern League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Canal Park, which ultimately only served as a sign of things to come.
Add the combination of 23 hits, 13 walks (including three straight that forced in a trio of runs) 11 pitchers, three home runs, and two big mid-game rallies -- and the result was a wild game that felt like it might never end.
Portland catcher Dusty Brown's three-run double in the ninth inning finally capped the three-hour, 34-minute marathon, handing the Sea Dogs a hard-earned 13-8 victory.
With the win, Portland takes home a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series that continues on Friday at Hadlock Field.
"The way they had been scoring, I knew we needed to put more runs on the board," said Brown, who helped the Sea Dogs score the second-most postseason runs in franchise history.
Heading into the final inning with only an 9-8 lead, Portland plated four more runs on a pair of doubles by Brown and David Bacani to put the game out of reach. Right-hander Brett Evert set the Aeros down in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the victory.
"I don't think we could have scripted it any better to come in here and take two from them," Sea Dogs manager Todd Claus said. "[But] it's not over. Teams have come back from down 2-0."
The night's back-and forth action began almost immediately, with Portland quickly making up for lost opportunities against Aeros starter Aaron Laffey, who had held the Sea Dogs to a pair of unearned runs in two previous meetings in August.
After leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury reached on an error to start the game, newcomer George Kottaras lined a no-doubt home run into the right-field bleachers to give the visitors a quick 2-0 lead.
The Aeros responded in the bottom of the inning, trimming the deficit to a run when Trevor Crowe led off with a double off the left-center field wall, scoring on a two-out single by Ryan Mulhern.
Aeros catcher Wyatt Toregas, who made a costly baserunning mistake for the Aeros in the first game, made up for it on Wednesday in his first at-bat. His solo homer to lead off the third splash-landed in the canal beyond the left-field wall, knotting the score, 2-2.
Sea Dogs starter Tommy Hottovy struggled through the inning, needing 29 pitches and a little luck to escape a bases-loaded jam. Although Brad Snyder hit into a double play that erased a run at the plate and Pat Osborn grounded out to end the inning, Akron took the lead on Ryan Goleski's RBI single.
The last time Hottovy pitched at Canal Park was Aug. 6, in just his second Double-A start after being promoted from Class A Wilmington. In that outing, the left-hander gave up four runs on six hits and six walks in four innings.
In his first four starts (including two vs. Akron), he was 0-3 with an 8.14 ERA. However, over his last four starts entering Wednesday, Hottovy had turned things around to go 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA.
The Aeros lead against Hottovy was short-lived as Laffey surprisingly fell apart in the fourth.
"[Laffey] wasn't throwing anything over the plate to hit," Brown said. "I think that's what got him in trouble. He tried to nibble too much."
Suddenly unable to locate the plate, the left-hander walked four batters, hit another and allowed three runs to score on bases-loaded walks during Portland's six-run outburst.
"It's not his character," Aeros manager Tim Bogar said of Laffey's wildness. "So when he walks the first guy, we figure he'll work out of it. He's a ground-ball pitcher and usually always just a pitch away from getting out of trouble. But then it's two [walks]. By three, well, he just couldn't make the pitch he needed."
With little momentum and facing a four-run deficit, the Aeros rallied again for a three-run fifth to chase Hottovy and make it 8-7.
"When it was 8-4 and we got it to a run, I thought for sure that we put ourselves in a position to win it," said Osborn, who led the Aeros with a 3-for-5 effort that included three RBIs. "But they executed a little better down the stretch."
Aeros right-hander Sean Smith (10-5, 3.88 ERA) is scheduled to face Sea Dogs left-hander Andrew Dobies (1-2, 3.93 ERA) as the series shifts to Portland at 6 p.m. ET on Friday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.