NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Portland Sea Dogs starter Billy Buckner has logged considerable time in the majors, so Double-A isn’t where he wants to be, but he’s making progress.

Buckner earned his first Eastern League victory Sunday, recording eight strikeouts in six innings to lead the Sea Dogs to a 3-1 win over the New Britain Rock Cats.

The Sea Dogs (9-21) have won two series this season, both in New Britain. They return home tonight for a three-game series against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Buckner (1-2, 3.94), who struck out 11 in six innings April 24 against New Britain but didn’t figure in the decision, yielded five hits and didn’t walk a batter.

Buckner pitched in 36 major-league games with Arizona and Kansas City between 2007 and 2010. He had arm surgery in the offseason but bounced back well enough to sign with the Red Sox as a minor-league free agent March 2.

“He’s got a real good mix,” Portland Manager Kevin Boles said. “We signed him late and he’s been a very pleasant surprise. He attacks the zone. He can finish hitters. He really knows how to pitch.”

Aaron Kurcz struck out three and didn’t allow a hit in the seventh and eighth. Charle Rosario gave up consecutive singles to start the ninth, but he induced a double-play ball from Deibinson Romero and got his first save when center fielder Ronald Bermudez snared a low liner for the final out.

“Kurcz had a quality fastball. It’s crisp and comes out of his hand pretty good,” Boles said.

The Sea Dogs jumped in front on the first pitch of the second inning when Reynaldo Rodriguez slammed his third homer of the season.

New Britain (18-12) tied it with two outs in the fourth. Chris Colabello doubled and scored on a single by Aaron Hicks (3 for 4).

Portland regained the lead in the sixth.

Jeremy Hazelbaker rapped a leadoff double to right, went to third on a flyout to right field by Derrick Gibson and scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Carlos Linares to the warning track in left.

“He did that on his own,” Boles said of Hazelbaker going to third of Gibson’s fly ball. “He read the ball. He has that kind of speed.”

Zach Gentile added some insurance in the seventh with a two-out RBI double on an 0-1 pitch from reliever Bobby Lan-igan. Oscar Tejeda and Matt Spring set the table with singles off starter B.J. Hermsen (0-1, 2.70), who struck out five and walked one in 6 1/3 innings.

The Rock Cats outhit Portland, 7-6.