PORTLAND — With a runner on first base and fewer than two outs, pitchers are thinking ground ball. Get the double play.

But turning two on Thursday turned disastrous for the Portland Sea Dogs during a 5-4 loss to the New Britain Rock Cats before 7,100 at Hadlock Field.

Portland’s pitchers conceivably could have had a shutout, but the Sea Dogs muffed three double-play chances, allowing runs to score.

“Three double-play balls that would have ended the innings. We didn’t take care of the baseball on defense,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said.

Portland outhit the Rock Cats 8-5 and both Jeremy Hazelbaker and Will Middlebrooks hit two-run homers. But three errors on those double-play chances were the difference.

Junichi Tazawa (1-2) took the loss in relief, although he also looked sharp in his fourth appearance with Portland. He retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, four by strikeout.

“He had the best control since he’s been here,” catcher Tim Federowicz said. “Threw a lot of fastballs (up to 91 mph) and commanded the bottom of the zone.”

Starter Miguel Gonzalez struck out five but he also walked four and hit a batter over four innings.

Two walks and the hit batsman loaded the bases with one out in the first. Second baseman Oscar Tejeda handled a grounder and flipped to shortstop Heiker Meneses, whose throw to first base was wild. Two runs scored.

With runners on first and second with one out in the third, Meneses again threw wildly to first base, keeping the inning alive as two runs scored.

Tazawa allowed two singles with one out in the eighth, putting runners on first and third. Third baseman Ryan Khoury then fielded a grounder and threw the ball into right field as the winning run scored.

“We made pitches to work out of jams,” Boles said.

Federowicz led off the ninth with a double, but pinch-runner Mitch Dening was stranded.

NOTES: Before Middlebrooks hit his home run in the sixth, he visited the clubhouse. Injury? “I was hungry. I got a PowerBar,” he said. It worked. Middlebrooks’ shot hit the fourth level of signs in right-center. It was his 10th home run. … Hazelbaker’s homer was his sixth. Hazelbaker, the center fielder, also chased down a fly ball to left center in the third, making a diving catch. … The Sea Dogs put first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez on the disabled list after an emergency appendectomy. He will be out 4 to 6 weeks, with only seven weeks left in the season. Rodriguez was batting .288 with six home runs and 27 RBI in 29 games since his promotion from Class-A Salem. Utility player Jon Hee will fill in, with catcher Matt Spring as the backup. … Shortstop Ryan Dent was activated from the DL after missing more that two months with a hamstring injury. Dent, the Boston Red Sox’s second pick in the 2007 draft, will be coming back slowly, playing every other day. … Backup infielder Vladimir Frias, who arrived in Portland to fill in for Dent, was sent back to Salem. … Meneses, promoted from Class-A Greenville, remained with the Sea Dogs. Meneses, who just turned 20, went 2 for 3 and is batting .444 in eight games. … The Sea Dogs’ rotation is back down to five after Stolmy Pimentel was sent to Salem and both Michael Lee and Tazawa were sent to the bullpen. … The first 1,000 fans 16 and under though the gates today will receive a free T-shirt.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at [email protected]

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