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Couch, Sea Dogs stifle Sens at Fenway07/27/2013 4:48 PM ET
By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com
BOSTON -- Once the Double-A Portland rotation was ironed out following the All-Star break, Keith Couch started counting the games ahead to find that he was in line to make the highly sought-after start at Fenway Park.
"With my luck, it would have rained," he said. "Thankfully, it didn't and I was able to pitch today."
After a few near-rainouts almost put a wrench into the rotation, the sun burst on to one of baseball's biggest stages and Couch stood tall once the awe and nerves subsided on Saturday. He gave up two runs on two hits over seven innings to lead the Sea Dogs to a 5-2 victory over Harrisburg at the seventh Futures at Fenway event.
Making his 10th start of the season, Couch (8-3) did not get off on the right foot in his Fenway debut, yielding a leadoff triple to Brian Goodwin in a seven-pitch battle.
Goodwin scored on Justin Bloxom's sacrifice fly to center for a 1-0 lead after the first, and the Senators plated another run in the second when Brian Jeroloman drove in Jason Martinson with a single past shortstop Heiker Meneses.
"I was definitely a little nervous," said Couch, who allowed two hits and two walks in the first two frames. "I was kind of just guiding the ball a little bit, which is not really what I do."
From that point on, the 23-year-old right-hander was nearly untouchable, flashing a low-90s fastball with command that set up his changeup and slider. He used 95 pitches -- 64 for strikes -- to induce 11 groundouts to go with three strikeouts, improving to 5-1 as a starter.
"In the second inning, I was kind of taking it in," Couch said. "It was kind of like a 'For Love of the Game' type of thing. I turned that mechanism on and got into it and just locked in with [catcher] Christian [Vazquez] and got after it."
Over the next five innings, the Senators were unable to muster another hit. And when the Sea Dogs struck for three runs in the bottom of the second, the tide had turned.
Meneses sparked the second-inning rally with a two-out, two-run double that rattled the tin scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster and put the Sea Dogs ahead for good, 3-2.
Two innings later, Travis Shaw put some insurance on the board for Portland when he crushed a 2-0 fastball from Harrisburg starter Taylor Hill that carried out to the Senators bullpen in right-center for his 13th home run.
"I thought maybe it was a little too high at first," the Sea Dogs first baseman said of the solo shot. "But it kept going and kept carrying, and as soon as it went over the fence I was pretty pumped. I just tried to act like I've been there before."
Shaw got into the action again in the sixth, roping a leadoff double into the cavernous right-field corner, but was stranded.
"I worked myself into a couple of good hitting counts and was able to put a few good swings on the ball today," said the 23-year-old, who finished 3-for-4 and missed the cycle by a triple. "It was pretty fun out there today. It was a nice change of scenery coming to Fenway Park."
The Sea Dogs' final run played out on the basepaths as No. 7 Red Sox prospect Garin Cecchini worked a seventh-inning walk, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored as the next pitch also was wild.
"I just tried to make something happen," Cecchini said. "I had been trying to steal all day. I knew [Harrisburg pitcher Rob Mirowski] was going to throw a slider right there, so I was getting ready. He threw one and it bounced away."
For the Sea Dogs, it was their third trip to their parent club's hallowed home, where they are 2-1.
"This is one of the best stadiums ever and I'm here pitching," Couch said of the experience. "Hopefully, it's one of many, but my first experience was a little nerve-racking."