Before his start against Erie, a team that scored seven runs off him nine days ago, Portland's Anthony Ranaudo had a difficult bullpen. Two-and-a-half hours later, the 6-foot-7 right-hander was being compared to Red Sox hurlers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Boston's No. 16 prospect established career highs by striking out 13 over 7 2/3 innings in the Double-A Sea Dogs' 2-0 win over the SeaWolves at Hadlock Field on Thursday night. Lester was the last Sea Dog to punch out 13, doing so July 11, 2005 at New Hampshire.
"Obviously, that's really good company, [Lester] is a great player and pitcher, and a great role model in the organization as one of the guys who started in the organization and made it up to the big leagues and won a championship and became an All Star," said Ranaudo (7-1).
The Louisiana State product, who gave up two hits and walked two, is tied for the Eastern League lead in victories with Binghamton's Rafael Montero and Logan Verrett.
"It was kind of a rough bullpen before the game. There was rough weather, it was misting and cold," Ranaudo said. "But they always say when you have a rough bullpen, you go out there and pitch well."
With one out in the first, he struck out seven in a row -- falling one short of tying Buchholz's record of eight consecutive strikeouts for Portland.
Ranaudo cruised until exiting with two outs in the eighth after walking Jamie Johnson. Sea Dogs closer Brock Huntzinger got Eugenio Suarez to pop out to end the inning and then worked around two singles in the ninth to earn his 13th save.
"I was hoping to stay in the game, but I know the organization is tight about strict pitch limits. I figured I was probably on a pitch count," said Ranaudo, who threw 104 pitches.
The 23-year-old, who dropped his ERA to 2.15, has allowed 41 hits and struck out 76 in 67 innings this season. It's been a welcome relief to him after he battled injuries and posted a 6.69 ERA over 37 2/3 frames in 2012.
"I was obviously injured all last year, so health is the first thing for me this year," Ranaudo said. "I put on about 15 pounds in the offseason, so I'm stronger and I feel a lot more confident. My fastball's back in the mid-90s."
With teammates Brandon Workman and top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket recently, Ranaudo is staying focused on continuing to pitch well for Portland.
"There are no whispers about [a callup]. The organization doesn't tell you to do this or that and you'll be called up. I just want to keep taking the ball every fifth day and try to help my team the best I can," Ranaudo said. "This is a pretty fun team here in Portland."
Portland third baseman Michael Almanzar went 3-for-3 and drove in both runs with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Erie lefty Ramon Garcia (0-1) allowed two runs and seven hits while striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings.