PORTLAND – The Portland Sea Dogs thought they could count on the fluttering knuckleball of Charlie Zink to put the Reading Phillies to sleep on a hot holiday weekend afternoon. But they also knew they could catch Reading backstop Tim Gradoville napping if the right opportunity arose.

Cory Keylor’s delayed steal of home with the bases loaded and two out sparked a five-run second and Zink bounced back from a rough fourth inning as the Sea Dogs won their third straight, 8-5, in front of a sellout crowd at Hadlock Field Saturday.

The delayed steal happened after Iggy Suarez took ball two from Reading starter Kyle Kendrick. Gradoville lobbed the ball back to the mound and Keylor broke for the plate, sliding in to beat Gradoville’s quick toss back to the plate.

“Arnie just mentioned to me that he was kind of lobbing the ball back to the pitcher and he was like ‘If you want to take a chance, go do it,'” said Keylor. “He threw a curve ball in the dirt. I just got down the line and nobody was really paying any attention and I just put my head down and took off.”

Beyeler credited Portland outfielder Jay Johnson with noticing Gradoville’s lazy tosses back to the mound in Friday night’s game.

“It was just one of those fluke things. We noticed something (Friday) night and fortunately it came up again today in a situation where it could work for us,” Portland manager Arnie Beyeler. “It’s not something you do all the time. If there’s a left-handed hitter up there, we’re probably not going to do it because the catcher can see you better.”

An error by first baseman Jason Hill and a bases-loaded walk to Jed Lowry kept the rally going. Jeff Natale capped it with a two-run double. Portland got just two hits in the frame, but the way the offense has been struggling, Beyeler isn’t going to be picky.

“After Cory got in there, we put a couple of hits together and a walk with the bases loaded,” Beyeler said. “I don’t know if it’s better to have one big inning or a lot of little innings, but we’ll take `em when get `em, and hopefully it’s enough.”

Eric Crozier (2-for-2, two walks, two runs scored) added an RBI single in the third to make it 6-0.

Zink (seven innings, seven hits, four earned runs, three walks, two Ks) struggled through the early innings but didn’t get into trouble until the fourth, when Greg Jacobs blasted a three-run homer to right to make it 6-4.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t used to the heat so I actually tired myself out a little bit in the bullpen. After the home run, all of the adrenaline kicked in,” said Zink, who improved to 3-1. “I started keeping the ball down. I had good depth to it, so I got a lot of ground balls. It was dropping a lot.”

Zink induced double-plays in the second, third and sixth to keep the Phillies at bay. The twin-killing in the sixth followed a drop by Suarez at second base as he was trying to turn two on a Juan Tejada grounder. Matt Padgett scored on the play to pull Reading within one.

Suarez redeemed himself with a two-run double in the eighth to give reliever Barry Hertzler some breathing room as he worked two scoreless innings for his first save of the season.

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