PORTLAND – They got to the major league pitcher early for three hits and a run, but the Portland Sea Dogs could not do much else, losing a 5-2 decision to the Trenton Thunder on Saturday night at Hadlock Field

New York Yankees reliever Alfredo Aceves started for the Thunder, continuing his comeback since going on the disabled list May 9 with back problems.

Aceves pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing a walk, two doubles and a Ryan Khoury solo home run in the second inning.

“He’s a good pitcher,” Khoury said. “He was spotting up pretty well and had some depth to his curveball. … He froze me with a curveball earlier in the AB.”

With a 2-2 count, Aceves threw another curve.

“Pretty good depth and nice break,” Khoury said. “I just flipped my hands on it and luckily got it on the barrel.”

Khoury’s second home run of the season hit the message board in left center. But Khoury’s blast only closed the score to 3-1.

Four batters into the game, Trenton already scored three runs. Portland starter Stephen Fife (6-6) showed some of the signs that made him an All-Star in July, allowing only one hit from the second through fourth inning.

But the first inning was a problem. Fife allowed a leadoff double, an RBI single and a two-run homer by Austin Romine to dead center.

“He didn’t look like he got down in the zone,” Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler said. “He got behind. He got hit a little bit.”

Fife gave up two more runs in the fifth on a walk, double and Daniel Brewer’s two-run single.

Portland equaled Trenton in hits 8-8, but could not come through in the clutch.

“We were battling up there,” Khoury said. “But it’s all about getting hits in those pressure situations.”

Khoury went 2-for-4, as did Luis Exposito and Chih-Hsien Chiang.

Exposito had two doubles. His shot off the left-field wall scored a run in the third inning. He is now batting .270 with 85 RBI, third best in the Eastern League.

Hector Noesi (8-4), who was originally scheduled to start for Trenton until Aceves arrived, entered in the fourth inning. He finished the final six innings, allowing four hits and striking out three.

“They can pitch,” Beyeler said. The Thunder rank third in the league in ERA (3.59). “We can’t keep digging ourselves holes and expect to climb out of them.”

Portland tried to climb out in the ninth. Khoury doubled with one out and Chiang followed with a single. But Matt Sheely grounded into a double play to end it.

Trenton continues to lead the Eastern League East Division with a 76-50 record. Portland dropped to 59-66.

NOTES: The paid attendance was a second straight sellout (7,368). … Reliever Ryne Miller was activated from the disabled list and pitched one inning Saturday (one hit, one walk). … Former Sea Dogs infielder Yamaico Navarro got his first major league start Saturday, playing second base for the Red Sox.

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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