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Fisher Cats clinch playoff berth
08/28/2010 10:13 PM ET
 (Kevin Littlefield)

(Manchester, NH)---The New Hampshire Fisher Cats clinched the playoffs for the first time since the championship year of 2004 despite a 5-2 loss to the Portland Sea Dogs in front of a season-high crowd of 8,746 at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.  Saturday marked the third highest attendance in franchise history behind the John Smoltz rehab assignment on May 29, 2009 (8,903) and the Eastern League All-Star Game on July 16, 2008 (8,762). 

With the magic number down to one, New Hampshire relied on the Reading Phillies' 4-3 loss to the Binghamton Mets to make the postseason.  Even David Cooper's 20th home run of the season couldn't help the Fisher Cats (75-57) celebrate with a win.  

Starting pitchers Kyle Drabek and Blake Maxwell were part of an old-fashioned pitchers duel to start the game.  Drabek, fresh from being named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, left after five innings with the score notched at zero.  The right-handed hurler, who was dealt the no-decision, only allowed one hit while striking out four and walking four.  Three double plays helped his cause especially in the top of the fifth when he walked the first two batters of the frame.

The Sea Dogs (63-69) made some noise against the Fisher Cats bullpen, bringing eight runners to bat in the top of the sixth and scoring four runs on four hits.  Ray Chang and Luis Exposito did the damage with back-to-back two-run singles to give Portland the 4-0 advantage.  

Maxwell went unscathed until the bottom of the sixth when Adam Calderone's single set up Cooper's home run on a 0-0 count.  The two-run blast over the right-center field fence brought the score to 4-2.  Cooper has now joined teammates Eric Thames (25) and Shawn Bowman (22) with over 20 home runs, and it is the first time in franchise history three members of the Fisher Cats have reached that plateau in the same season.

Maxwell (6-0), who recorded the victory, called it a night after 5.2 innings, allowing the two runs on five hits while striking out six and walking one.  Daniel Turpen received his first save of the season with a scoreless ninth.  

David Purcey (0-1), who is making a rehab stint for the Toronto Blue Jays, was given the loss for the Fisher Cats, allowing three runs on two hits while striking out one and walking one.  

Portland added a run in the top of the seventh on a pair of doubles by Chih-Hsien Chiang and Nate Spears to stretch the lead to 5-2. 

The homestand continues on Sunday with the final game of the season against the Portland Sea Dogs at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.  New Hampshire and Portland are tied 7-7 in the season series.  Fisher Cats right-hander Zach Stewart (8-3) will get the ball, and take on Sea Dogs starter Kyle Weiland (5-8).  Fisher Cats Pre game begins at 6:45 p.m. on the WGIR Fisher Cats Radio Network with Bob Lipman

It is Fisher Cats Lunch Bag Giveaway at the ballpark Sunday.  Be one of the first 1,000 kids to enter the stadium and receive a FREE Fisher Cats Lunch Bag courtesy of Terminix.  Kids Run the Bases, presented by NH Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, follows the game.  New Hampshire will host the Harrisburg Senators from August 30-September 2.  Playoff tickets and 2011 Season Tickets are now available.  Visit www.nhfishercats.com or call (603) 641-2005 for details.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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