PORTLAND — If the Pittsburgh Pirates are looking for pitching help in their push to the playoffs, they need only to look within.

Kyle McPherson is mowing them down in Double-A.

Pitching for the Altoona Curve, a Pirates’ affiliate, McPherson is dominating with a pinpoint 90-mph fastball, solid curveball and a killer change-up.

McPherson (5-3) struck out 10 in 62/3 innings as Altoona topped the Portland Sea Dogs 5-1 Saturday night before 7,242 at Hadlock Field.

One scout in attendance provided a one-word assessment of McPherson: “Nasty.”

The Sea Dogs would agree.

“It’s hard to find a guy who can pitch to our lineup like that,” said Sea Dogs catcher Tim Federowicz, who was 0 for 3 with a strikeout against McPherson before singling in the ninth.

“We’re a fastball-hitting team and he threw us a lot of fastballs — and that change-up.”

McPherson showcased command, with one walk and 20 of 25 first-pitch strikes. He gave up four hits and one run, lowering his ERA to 2.88.

Although he had never pitched higher than in Class A, McPherson, 23, was put on the Pirates’ 40-man roster before the season. He began 2011 at Class A Bradenton and nearly had a no-hitter, allowing a hit in the ninth.

Promoted to Double-A in June, McPherson made an easy transition. One memorable start was against Trenton on July 3. He faced rehabbing Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and struck him out with three pitches.

He has allowed three or fewer runs in all but one Double-A start, when he allowed four.

“One of the best we’ve seen all year,” Portland Manager Kevin Boles said. “Very impressive.”

Portland starter Brock Huntzinger again pitched well in spurts, but still gave up four runs in five-plus innings. He struck out two and walked one.

“He was dominant at times and he also pitched out of some jams,” Federowicz said. “Just a little bit inconsistent with the fastball is what it came down to.”

Huntzinger hit the first batter of the game, Starling Marte, who scored on Tony Sanchez’s double.

Portland tied it in the third. Ryan Dent led off with a double to left and advanced to third on Jeremy Hazelbaker’s bunt single. Dent scored on Chih-Hsien Chiang’s fielder’s choice. Chiang leads the Eastern League with 76 RBI.

Huntzinger gave up two runs in the fourth on three hits and a sacrifice fly. He left with bases loaded in the sixth. Reliever Caleb Clay allowed one inherited runner to score, then gave up another run in the ninth.

NOTES: Right-handed pitching prospect Alex Wilson is scheduled to come off the disabled list Tuesday when the Sea Dogs play a doubleheader at Bowie, Md. Wilson (8-4, 2.87 ERA) has been sidelined since his last start (July 18) with a skin infection in his left elbow. He spent three days at Massachusetts General Hospital receiving antibiotics. … The Sea Dogs play their last home game today until Aug. 9. Ticket-holders to today’s game can come early and play catch in the Hadlock outfield from 10-11:15 a.m. … Former Sea Dogs Yamaico Navarro and David Pauley were involved in trades Saturday. Navarro went from Boston to Kansas City and Pauley from Seattle to Detroit. … Sea Dogs radio broadcaster Mike Antonelis threw out the first pitch Saturday in recognition of his 2,000th broadcast last week. … Before Saturday’s games, Sea Dogs players were filming promotions for the Futures at Fenway game Aug. 20.

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

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Twitter: ClearTheBases