Sea Dogs' Spring produces grand finish

Walk-off blast caps career-best two-homer, six-RBI afternoon

By Sam Dykstra / Special to | May 18, 2013 1:00 PM ET

In a see-saw game that already featured three lead changes, there was a chance the Portland Sea Dogs would not see the momentum tilt back in their favor before the final out.

Sure, Xander Bogaerts and Tony Thomas started the bottom of the ninth inning with singles, but Binghamton closer Jeff Walters -- who had allowed just one run over 15 2/3 innings -- responded by striking out Travis Shaw and Michael Almanzar.

As if the moment needed more drama, Walters walked Shannon Wilkerson to load the bases with two outs for Matt Spring, who had hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Sea Dogs their first lead but also had struck out three times on the day.

"Obviously, Walters has great numbers, so all I'm looking to do is get to a fastball," Spring said. "I didn't want to wait for his off-speed stuff at all, just get a fastball in that I can get something on."

After Walters missed with his first pitch, Spring got exactly what he wanted and momentum swung for the final time.

Spring connected on a walk-off grand slam that struck the Citgo sign over Hadlock Field's Maine Monster in left field to give the Double-A Sea Dogs a 10-7 win over the Mets.

"That's the situation you dream about since you're in Little League," the 28-year-old catcher said. "But at the same time, I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. You just have to try to stay calm and treat it like you would any other at-bat. Even a single in that situation wins the game for us, so my focus is just on making good contact."

What followed caught the eyes -- and tweets -- of Spring's teammates.

Spring established career highs with two homers and six RBIs. The game-winner was the third grand slam of his nine-year career (the others came on May 24, 2007 and Aug. 23, 2010 for Double-A Montgomery).

Although he seemed like an unlikely hero on paper, Saturday's dramatics were the latest in what has been a hot start for Spring.

After missing most of April with myriad injuries, Spring -- a .214 lifetime hitter in the Minor Leagues -- is batting .286 with five homers and 14 RBIs in 11 games since rejoining the Sea Dogs. Those power numbers already are catching up with the totals -- seven homers, 22 RBIs -- he put up over 60 games for Portland a season ago.

Yet the former Rays prospect was more than willing to pass credit for his accomplishments to the team, which has averaged five runs in the 19 games since he returned.

"You can tell all these guys have fun out there and that makes it easy coming to the field every day," Spring said. "Every day, it seems like it's someone different. Whether it's great starting pitching or someone getting a clutch hit late, there's always somebody contributing. And that's contagious."

On Saturday, the hero happened to be Spring in a game that was one out from having a very different ending.

"That's the best part," he said. "With the momentum shifting back and forth, emotions can get pretty pent-up when you go from winning to losing to winning to losing to winning again. It just shows the resiliency of our team that we pulled it out. It really could have gone either way."

Bogaerts -- the Red Sox top prospect -- finished 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Thomas went 4-for-5 with a solo homer and two runs scored. No. 17 prospect Anthony Ranaudo did not factor in the decision after allowing two runs on three hits and three walks over four innings in his shortest outing of the season.

Mets No. 16 prospect Wilfredo Tovar went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for Binghamton, which had a five-game winning streak snapped.

Sam Dykstra is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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