Owens starts off with shortened no-no
Opening Day gives every game a ready-made storyline. The Portland Sea Dogs came up with several more.
Boston's top pitching prospect Henry Owens fired a rain-shortened no-hitter, manager Billy McMillon picked up his 300th win and Mookie Betts led off the season with a home run as part of a 4-for-4 night as Double-A Portland beat the host Reading Fightin Phils, 5-0, on Thursday.
Owens retired the final 16 batters he faced before the game was called after six innings because of rain to give him his first complete-game shutout.
It was the third no-hitter in franchise history (the first as a Red Sox affiliate) and the first complete-game no-no. The last one came on Aug. 13, 2001, when Josh Beckett combined with Brandon Bowe and Aaron Scheffer to blank Binghamton when the team was part of the Florida Marlins system.
"It was only six innings, so it was kind of a cheap one," Owens told the Republican Herald. "But it feels good to get the season started. I was ready to get out of Florida and up here again.
"The team had a lot of great energy. We jumped on them early and didn't look back."
MLB.com's No. 30 prospect struck out two batters in each of the first, third, fourth and six innings plus one in the second frame. He threw 59 of 86 pitches for strikes and did not allow a ball to leave the infield.
The 2011 first-rounder worked around a pair of walks in the opening frame, but he was perfect after that.
He got some help from his defense in the fifth. Shortstop Deven Marrero snared a sharp ground ball to take a base hit away from Anthony Hewitt and second baseman Betts made a leaping catch to rob following batter Carlos Alonso of a bloop single. Mother Nature then placed Owens in the record books following a 34-minute delay in front of 6,860 fans.
Last July, Owens tossed six innings in an eventual three-pitcher no-hitter as the Class A Advanced Salem Red Sox topped the Frederick Keys, 6-0.
Owens is also no stranger to dominant Eastern League performances. The 21-year-old went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in six starts last summer, including a 10-strikeout, no-hit effort over five innings against Harrisburg on Aug. 16 and an 11-K gem in his Double-A debut against Bowie on Aug. 3. In 2013, the 6-foot-6 left-hander led all qualifying full-season Minor Leaguers with a .177 batting average against in 26 starts over two levels.
"Henry Owens threw a good ball game," Reading manager Dusty Wathan told the Republican Herald. "He's got an outstanding change-up -- it's the first time I've ever seen him throw.
"[Owens] did what he was supposed to do. He got ahead, used his changeup and didn't need much of a breaking ball tonight. I give him a lot of credit. He threw the ball very good ... in tough conditions."
Portland leadoff hitter Betts, Boston's No. 7 prospect, went 4-for-4 with a solo homer off the videoboard in left-center field and three runs scored. Marrero, right fielder Henry Ramos and catching prospect Blake Swihart, celebrating his 22nd birthday, each contributed two hits.
It was also a historic night for McMillon, the first former Sea Dog to manage the team. He led Salem to the Mills Cup last September.
Philadelphia's top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle (0-1) took the loss. He surrendered four runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out five batters over 3 1/3 innings.
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.