The motion is so natural and easygoing, it appears Bryan Mata is simply tossing the ball to home plate.

Then the ball explodes into the catcher’s mitt.

Mata’s first pitch of the Portland Sea Dogs’ game on Sunday sizzled in at 98 mph. Mata, 20, is indeed a legitimate pitching prospect for the Boston Red Sox. He demonstrated dominant stuff Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at Hadlock Field.

Joel Page/Staff Photographer Tate Matheny swings against Binghamton pitcher Tommy Wilson, who held the Sea Dogs to two hits in six innings. Joel Page/Staff Photographer

Two short lapses in command cost Mata. He issued a full-count walk to the leadoff batter and then, with two outs, elevated a 97 mph fastball right over the plate. Barrett Barnes crushed it for a two-run homer to left-center.

Mata (1-2) allowed only three more base runners in his third Double-A start. He pitched six innings, allowing four hits, two runs and one walk while striking out eight.

“Oh boy, what an arm,” said Binghamton (and former Sea Dogs) Manager Kevin Boles. “That is one of the better arms we’ve seen in the league, no doubt.

As good as Mata was, he was outdueled by right-hander Tommy Wilson (2-4), a 19th-round draft pick last year for the New York Mets. Wilson also went six innings, allowing two hits – a pair of Brett Netzer singles – no runs and one walk. He struck out three. At one point, Wilson retired 14 straight.

Portland lost four games in the five-game series with the Rumble Ponies, scoring a total of three runs in those defeats.

But Portland had one bright spot in Mata. He rebounded from his last start – a 98-pitch effort over 3 2/3 innings in which he allowed five earned runs – effectively mixing his fastball, slider, changeup and curve.

“Phenomenal,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott said. “He flashed upper-level, elite stuff across the board. Overpowering fastball that he commanded better than average. Late-breaking slider that was darn near unhittable. Got a couple swings-and-misses on his changeup (and curve). He showed four really good pitches.

“He looked relaxed and in control.”

Binghamton extended its lead to 3-0 lead with three singles against reliever Adam Lau in the top of the ninth.

Portland made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Jarren Duran walked and stole second. With one out, C.J. Chatham singled to right, advancing Duran to third, and bringing up Eastern League home run leader Bobby Dalbec, who worked a seven-pitch walk to load the bases.

Joey Curletta grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice – beating the throw to prevent a double play – as Duran scored. But Luke Tendler grounded out to second to end the game.

NOTES: The announced paid attendance was a sellout (7,368). … Duran has 11 steals in 15 chances for the Sea Dogs after going 18 for 23 for Class A Salem. … Outfielder Marcus Wilson rejoined the Sea Dogs roster from Salem. Wilson, 22, was acquired by the Red Sox in April from Arizona in the Blake Swihart trade. He struggled in Portland (.161 average in 19 games) and was demoted to Salem, where he had a .342 average in 45 games. He entered Sunday’s game in the ninth inning as a pinch runner. … To make room for Wilson, utility player Josh Tobias was put on the injured list. … The Sea Dogs leave Monday for a seven-day trip, starting in New Hampshire, and then on to Harrisburg. The team returns to Hadlock Field on July 22 for the start of a seven-game home stand.