PORTLAND — While the Portland Sea Dogs toil through this losing season, one upbeat notion was that the team kept improving as the summer wore on.

After a dismal May (6-25), the Sea Dogs had winning records in June and July.

But now it’s August and the defeats have gone back to piling up, including a 9-3 setback Wednesday to the Harrisburg Senators at Hadlock Field.

The Sea Dogs, who are 8-15 in August, lost their season-worst seventh straight and completed an 0-6 homestand.

And while postseason dreams were extinguished long ago, Portland (53-77) was officially eliminated from playoff consideration.

The Sea Dogs will fly out today for an eight-game trip to Reading, then Harrisburg. They will return Sept. 2 for a four-game homestand to finish the season.

With 12 games to go, Portland must go 8-4 to avoid the worst record in franchise history. The inaugural team in 1994 finished with a 60-81 record.

In Wednesday’s game, the Sea Dogs hammered out 10 hits to Harrisburg’s 12, including solo home runs from new catcher Jeff Howell and shortstop Ryan Dent.

And Portland’s batters were back to working the count, getting quality at-bats. But in the clutch the Sea Dogs faltered, leaving 13 on base, going 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position.

“We had opportunities but we definitely struggled with runners in scoring position. That was the difference,” Portland Manager Kevin Boles said.

The Sea Dogs chased Harrisburg starter and former New York Mets reliever Oliver Perez in the fifth inning, having pushed his pitch count to 102.

Reliever Jimmy Barthmaier (5-3) came on to hit a batter, loading the bases with two outs. But Howell’s groundout ended the inning.

Reliever Jeremy Kehrt (2-1) made his fourth start, in place of the injured Miguel Gonzalez, and put in a fine effort, except for two crushed home runs. Kehrt lasted 52/3 innings, allowing four hits and four runs.

“Kehrt left a couple of pitches up but he limited the damage,” Boles said.

Tyler Moore, the Eastern League home run leader, hit his 28th well over the left-field wall in the second inning. In the fourth, Tim Pahuta hit the U.S. Cellular sign above the right- field pavilion for a two-run shot and a 3-0 lead.

Howell cleared the left-field wall in the fourth for his first Hadlock homer, closing to 3-1.

Chris Rahl hit the third Harrisburg homer, off reliever Chris Martin in the seventh. Adam Fox’s two-run triple highlighted a five-run eighth.

“Out of the bullpen we elevated pitches,” Boles said. “With their offense you can’t elevate pitches.”

Howell doubled in the eighth and eventually scored on Mitch Dening’s sacrifice fly. Dent followed with his blast to left- center.

Harrisburg improved its league-best record to 73-57.

NOTES: Howell, 28, signed last week out of the independent leagues, went 4 for 5 with a homer and two doubles. In four games he’s batting .467 (7 for 15) with two homers. … In Monday’s game, pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller and first baseman Jon Hee collided while trying to field a bunt. Both stayed in the game but have experienced concussion symptoms since. They both went on the disabled list Wednesday and were replaced by two call-ups from Class A Salem — reliever Will Latimer and infielder Alex Valdez.

Latimer, a 2007 Red Sox draft pick, had a 2.93 earned-run average in Salem. … Valdez was signed as a minor league free agent in June. He was with the Nationals’ organization and played with Harrisburg this year. … Jeremy Hazelbaker stole his 31st base of the season for Portland (out of 36 tries). Counting his time in Salem, Hazelbaker has 43 steals this year. … The announced paid attendance was 6,225.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: ClearTheBases