Despite a 1-0 loss, the Sea Dogs are still in search of a playoff spot

By the time the Major League Baseball trade deadline arrived at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Portland Sea Dogs were taking to the field for their game against the Erie Seawolves. With no players on the Sea Dogs’ roster included in deals made by parent club Boston Red Sox, the team could get back to business second-half pennant hunting.

“At this level, these guys are kind of there now and understand it. As uncomfortable as it may be, you try to keep your mind focused on what you have to do today,” Portland manager Chad Epperson said.

Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Erie, the only race to come at the Parker Meadows solo circuit in ninth, dropped Portland’s record to 17-11 in the second half of the season. The Sea Dogs are now half a game behind the Hartford Yard Goats for the lead in the Eastern League Northeast Division. Tuesday’s game in front of 5,302 fans at Hadlock Field opened a two-week homestand in which Portland will host the Seawolves and Richmond Flying Squirrels.

The Eastern League determines playoff entrants by awarding postseason deals to teams that win the first and second halves of the season. The Somerset Patriots have already secured a playoff berth by winning the first half of the Northeast Division. If Somerset wins the second half of the season, second place in the divisional playoffs goes to the team with the best full-season record.

“It gives the team more spark,” infielder Christian Koss said of a playoff chase. “We have a great group of guys, good camaraderie. The fact that we push like that makes everyone want to play a little better. It all comes down to the question of can people stay healthy and can we continue to play regular baseball? »

Koss is one of five Sea Dogs regulars to hit .308 or better since the team returned from its four-day midseason hiatus on July 22. the last nine games since the end of the break, bringing his season average to .288 and his on-base percentage to .331. Koss’ 12 home runs and 61 RBIs lead the team.

“What we have been working on all year is to be as consistent as possible. A big part of my problem is controlling the strike zone and swinging on good throws. I became more mature in that sense and had pitches to hit,” Koss said.

Tuesday’s lack of offense is a rarity for the Sea Dogs lately, who entered the game averaging nearly six points per game over their last nine.

“We are starting to make some adjustments as a team, not just individually. Guys buy a little more to compete in the batting box, especially with two strikes,” Epperson said. “It’s not always perfect, but better things happen when you put the ball in play with two strikes.”

Since being recalled from High-A Greenville on June 24, catcher Stephen Scott has been another strong stick on the Sea Dogs roster, with four home runs, 16 RBIs and 20 runs scored in 20 games.

“I think part of it is adapting to a new team. There are always challenges with that, but everyone here was really welcoming and gave me a great experience. It’s great to be able to play with some of the guys I finished with last year, it definitely helped me be more comfortable in the locker room,” Scott said.

Waiting for the trade deadline all day on Tuesday is part of life in the minor leagues.

“I wouldn’t say it’s stressful. It’s funny. It lets you know that you are in this business. Ultimately, it comes down to teams wanting coins. A lot of people are on their phones, checking Twitter to see if their name is on it,” Koss said after batting practice two hours before the deadline.

Koss recalled how he was traded by Colorado to Boston in December 2020 after the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I didn’t play for the Rockies that year, and all of a sudden I’m a Red Sox. It happens instantly, but that’s part of it,” Koss said.

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