MacDonald tosses 7-inning gem in home debut for Sea DogsCamden native excels in return from disabled list in historic first home game
Portland — Coming off the disabled list mere hours before Portland's July 17 game against Reading, few knew what to expect from former Camden-Rockport High School and University of Maine pitcher Mike MacDonald in his first home start at Hadlock Field.
As it turns out, neither did the Reading Phillies, the Sea Dogs' opponent Tuesday night.
The 6-foot 1-inch, 215-pound, right-handed MacDonald (1-0, 4.50 earned run average) had a terrific outing for the 'Dogs, tossing seven shutout innings in a 7-0 win over Reading, which is the Double-AA affiliate for the Philadelphia Phillies.
It was MacDonald's first appearance on the hill in his home state for Maine's only pro baseball team. MacDonald is the first Maine-born athlete to play for the Sea Dogs.
On Tuesday night, MacDonald, wearing jersey number #36, surrendered five hits and yielded no walks, while fanning two batters against Reading, which was the top-hitting club in the Eastern League heading into the game, sporting a .270 team average.
MacDonald's performance was worlds away from his first start with the Sea Dogs in Trenton July 8, a game in which he went only 2/3 of an inning and was removed from the game due to a hamstring injury.
The former Windjammer went on the 7-day disabled list July 9 and was officially activated two hours prior to Tuesday's start. The Sea Dogs are the Double-AA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
MacDonald had an efficient outing Tuesday and threw an assortment of pitches, finishing with only 72 pitches, 50 for strikes. He struck out the lead batters in both the first and second innings, retired the first eight batters of the game and threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 24 batters he faced.
The 30-year-old Camden native was encouraged by Tuesday's outing.
"It was great, especially after what happened to my leg," MacDonald said after Tuesday's game in reference to his first start July 9 in Trenton. "Getting through the first inning was my first goal and I happened to get through seven. It was exciting. Some family, friends and loved ones were here, so it was great."
He said his previously injured hamstring feels "good" and it felt better as the game went along.
MacDonald rarely was challenged throughout the game, though he did get touched up for three hits in the top of the fourth inning, which coincidentally, was when Mother Nature began to rear her ugly head over the ballpark.
Blustery winds, rain and lightning appeared on and off for the better part of 30 minutes, much of which took place in the fourth frame. MacDonald allowed a one-out single to right by Cody Asche and a double high off the green monster in left to Sebastian Valle, to put two runners in scoring position, in that inning.
Miguel Abreu then hit an infield single that was knocked down by Sea Dogs third baseman Marquez Smith, which loaded the bases.
MacDonald then induced a shortstop-to-second base-to-first base (6-4-3) double play to the next batter to get out of the inning unscathed.
Despite the difficult weather conditions during that inning, MacDonald offered no excuses.
"You've got to deal with the elements," he said. "We are in the state of Maine, but those things happen. They put some good swings on the ball that inning and we were able to get through it with a nice double play."
MacDonald's teammates not only helped with the leather, but with the bats as well. After he sent the Phillies down in order in the first inning, Jackie Bradley started the game with a solo home run to center field, igniting a three-run frame for the hosts.
Portland then scored a run in both the fifth and sixth innings and two more in the seventh.
"They played great behind me," said MacDonald of his teammates. "They had a lot of opportunities, and they made them pay with both the glove and the bat."
After a long wait in the bottom of the seventh inning when the Sea Dogs tacked on two more runs, MacDonald gave way to teammate Brock Huntzinger, who tossed two hitless innings of relief to close the door.
While he admitted he would liked to have gone out to finish the game due to his competitive nature, MacDonald said, "it was a smart decision" by the coaching staff to pull him with a seven-run lead.
"I got through seven [innings] and they more or less made a judgment call not wanting to push it," he said. "I think [the start] exceeded expectations and I was glad to have that happen."
This was MacDonald's second time pitching at Hadlock Field. As a member of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, MacDonald went eight innings and allowed six hits and two walks, with six strikeouts in a 2-0 win over the Sea Dogs in 2006.
MacDonald returned to Hadlock in 2010 as a member of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, but did not pitch.
Attendance for the July 17 game, which finished in two hours and 26 minutes, was 5,008.
The Sea Dogs, following the team's 7-4 win over Trenton July 24, are 46-57, fourth in the Eastern League. Through three starts, including the team's 6-5 loss to New Hampshire July 23, MacDonald sports a 1-0 record with a 4.50 ERA.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.