Sports

Sea Dogs’ Keith Couch gets comfortable at Fenway

It was the perfect dog-day afternoon at Fenway Park on Saturday and Red Sox prospect Keith Couch relished in the limelight. The 23-year-old righthander eased through a dominant seven-inning performance for the Double A Portland Sea Dogs, who defeated the Harrisburg Senators, 5-2, in the sixth Futures at Fenway showcase.

“I looked around and was just like, ‘Wow, this is one of the best stadiums ever and I’m here pitching hopefully one of many [games],’ ” said Couch. “But definitely the first experience was a little nerve-racking.”

After allowing a run in each of the first two frames, Couch settled in nicely, tossing five hitless innings and retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.

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“Once I started throwing my two-seam fastball, that was setting up my changeup and slider,” said Couch. “In that first inning, I was kind of guiding it and not really throwing it and letting it work.”

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The Sea Dogs struck for three runs in the bottom of the second inning, highlighted by a two-out, wall-ball double by Heiker Meneses that plated Travis Shaw and Derrick Gibson, for a 3-2 lead.

In the fourth, Shaw (3 for 4, RBI, two runs) hammered a 2-and-0 fastball into the visitor’s bullpen for his 13th homer of the season and a bit of insurance.

“The ball carried well here,” said Shaw, who also had a single and double. “I thought maybe it was a little too high at first, but it kept going and kept carrying. As soon as it went over the fence, I was pretty pumped.”

The final run of the game came in the seventh on some heady base running from Garin Cecchini (stolen base, run, two walks). The 22-year-old third baseman drew a walk, stole second, and scored on two wild pitches.

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“I had been trying to steal all day,” said Cecchini. “I knew [Harrisburg pitcher Richie Mirowski] was going to throw a slider right there so I was getting ready. It was exciting because you dream of this stuff.”

Couch picked up his eighth win of the season as the Sea Dogs improved to 53-54, and 2-1 in their tours of duty at Fenway.

“As soon as the All-Star break came up and they like told us what the rotation was, I started counting down the days to see who would get [the start],” said Couch, who was the lucky recipient. “I was praying for no rainouts.”

The Sea Dogs were not the only canines on hand for the festivities as Fenway Park was open to dogs for the first time as part of a Bark in the Park campaign that was also attended by 12,801 humans.