ALTOONA, Pa. – The Altoona Curve took command early Wednesday night and went on to an 8-1 victory against the Portland Sea Dogs at Blair County Ballpark.

The Curve ripped nine hits off Portland starter Jeremy Kehrt in his 51/3 innings.

Kehrt struck out three, walked one and allowed six earned runs as Altoona won its fifth straight overall and second straight against Portland.

The Sea Dogs collected eight hits to 10 for Altoona, but Portland Manager Arnie Beyeler said the eight hits were too spaced apart.

“We kind of spread our hits out a little bit,” Beyeler said. “(We’ve gotten) one inning (lately) where we get an opportunity. It’s tough to live that way. We’ve got to put some pressure on them.”

Nate Spears of Portland led off the game with a double off the right-field wall.

Che-Hsuan Lin followed with a single up the middle, and hesitation by Curve center fielder Gorkys Hernandez allowed Spears to score.

But Altoona scorched Kehrt for five hits in the bottom of the first, including doubles by Matt Hague and Hector Gimenez.

Hague’s double drove in Hernandez and Josh Harrison to put Altoona ahead, 2-1.

Jordy Mercer singled to drive in Hague and Altoona added another run later in the inning when Gimenez scored on a passed ball by Portland catcher Luis Exposito.

Altoona starter Bryan Morris allowed only four more hits until he was relieved by Jeff Sues in the seventh.

But the Curve added two runs apiece in the fourth and sixth innings on homers by Miles Durham and Gimenez, and an error by Portland first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Portland had the bases loaded in the eighth after singles by Ray Chang and Yamaico Navarro, and a Sues walk to Exposito — the third of the game to Exposito.

But two popups ended the inning, and Altoona reliever Diego Moreno set three batters down on strikes in the ninth to end the game.

“(Morris) threw a pretty tough ballgame against us,” Beyeler said.

“They got some big hits early (and we) played a little sloppy defense.

“(The Curve) swing the bats. There’s a reason they’ve got the record they’ve got.”

Altoona (47-24) passed the Lake Elsinore Storm of the Class A California League for the best record in minor league baseball.

Still, Beyeler believes Portland has the power to overcome a team like Altoona as the season goes on.

“We’re going to have to pitch well and play well, and swing the bats too,” he said.

“They’ve thrown some pretty good pitching at us that’s kept our bats at bay a little bit.”