The Portland Sea Dogs are having their best season in three years, but it will not be a winning one.

The Sea Dogs could not find a clutch hit Sunday afternoon, and lost to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies 7-1 before a sellout Hadlock Field crowd of 7,368.

The Sea Dogs dropped to 62-70, with eight games left in the season. Playoff-bound Binghamton improved to 78-54.

The Rumble Ponies feature one of the best pitching staffs in the Eastern League, and it showed Sunday. Portland had runners in scoring position in four innings, and went 0 for 10 in those situations.

The game was close – 3-1 – until the ninth. Reliever Ty Buttrey ended a string of solid appearances with a disastrous inning – two singles, followed by four walks. The Rumbled Ponies scored four in the frame.

Sea Dogs starter Trey Ball (6-12) allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out four and walked two.

“Trey Ball threw the ball extremely well,” Portland Manager Carlos Febles said. “Good slider. Fastball had good life.”

And the curve was working, too. Ball ended the fifth inning with two called third strikes with his curveball.

Ball’s only hiccup came in the fourth. After a double, and a one-out fielding error by first baseman Josh Ockimey, Ball allowed three runs on a single, a groundout and a double.

Ball’s ERA dipped to 5.38, but his 102 strikeouts is a career high.

Portland got its run in the fourth. Binghamton starter Corey Oswalt (11-5) walked Michael Chavis. With one out, Henry Urrutia singled up the middle, sending Chavis to third. Chavis scored on Ockimey’s groundout.

Oswalt lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.37.

“He’s got good stuff and he has a good idea what he’s doing,” Sea Dogs left fielder Danny Mars said. Mars, one of the league’s top hitters with a .305 average, was 0 for 4.

“We’ve faced him a few times. He mixes well. He’s deceptive and his fastball has a little bit of life.”

This was Oswalt’s third start against the Sea Dogs. He’s 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA.

“We had a tough task – one of the toughest pitchers in the league,” Febles said. “He did a good job, changing speed and making pitches when he needed to.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t do well in those situations, trying to do too much.”

Oswalt lasted six innings (three hits, three walks and nine strikeouts), and was followed by three relievers, each throwing a scoreless inning.

Josh Smith relieved Ball and pitched two perfect innings.

Buttrey had allowed only two runs in his last eight appearances (111/3 innings). But he could not find the zone on Sunday (30 pitches, 12 strikes).

NOTES: The Sea Dogs will be in Hartford the next four days. Portland is three games ahead of the Yard Goats for fourth place in the East Division. … The Sea Dogs finished in last place the previous two, with 53 and 55 wins respectively.