Left-hander Daniel McGrath continued his remarkable run and the Portland Sea Dogs suddenly find themselves contenders.

Portland topped the Erie Seawolves 2-0 Tuesday night, before 6,433 at Hadlock Field. The Sea Dogs improved to 23-22 in the Eastern League’s second half – sitting in second place in the East Division. They are five games behind Reading.

“You have to give a lot of credit to the pitching staff,” Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver said. “Daniel’s been our big guy right now. He’s gone out and shut people down.”

McGrath threw seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits, striking out nine to tie a career high. Two Erie players reached by walk, but McGrath picked off both.

McGrath began this season in the bullpen, but is now the team’s ace. In his 11 starts, McGrath is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA, and 61 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.

“Just trying to keep things simple and doing what I’m doing,” said McGrath, who mixed his 89 mph fastball with a deadly curve and change-up.

Tuesday featured a collision of two promising pitchers taking different paths toward the majors.

McGrath, 25, has been a pro since he was 17. He was stuck in advanced Class A for three years, and is in his second season with Portland. He is on a minor league contract and appears headed for better things.

Casey Mize, 22, was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2018 by the Detroit Tigers, receiving a $7.5 million signing bonus. He made a total of 10 starts in advanced Class A (six this year) before being promoted to Double-A in late April. Mize is considered the second-best prospect among all minor leaguers, according to mlb.com.

On Tuesday, Mize demonstrated his pinpoint 95 mph fastball and killer slider. He gave up five hits in six innings, striking out seven.

After a 1-2-3 first inning, Mize got in trouble in the second. With one out, Luke Tendler singled with a shift-beating grounder to left field. Michael Osinski, just promoted from Salem last week, grounded a perfect hit-and-run single to right, sending Tendler to third.

Brett Netzer sent a liner to left field, where Cam Gibson made a diving catch – an out, but also a sacrifice fly.

Jhon Nunez fouled off five pitches before his single to left. As Mize neared 30 pitches in the inning, the Erie bullpen got busy, but Mize induced a soft lineout to end the inning.

All five hits off Mize were to the opposite field.

“Something Lee (May, the Sea Dogs’ hitting coach) has really been preaching, staying up the middle and using the other side of the field,” Oliver said.

The Sea Dogs got a second run off the Erie bullpen in the eighth on Osinski’s sacrifice fly.

McGrath allowed four baserunners among the first nine batters, but then retired 11 straight, including five straight strikeouts.

“I was kind of battling myself (early) and trying to figure it out,” he said. “Stayed composed toward the end, and threw all three pitches for strikes.”

Eduard Bazardo pitched a one-hit eighth, and Dedgar Jimenez finished it with a 1-2-3 ninth, for his fourth save.

NOTES: Nunez hurt his leg running to second base for a fifth-inning double. He was helped off the field, and then carted to the clubhouse. Oliver said Nunez will be checked out Wednesday … McGrath leads the team with eight pickoffs … Erie has many of Detroit’s top pitching prospects. After facing Mize on Tuesday, the Sea Dogs face Detroit’s No. 4 prospect, Tarik Skubal, on Wednesday, and then No. 9 Alex Faedo for Thursday’s noon game … Wednesday’s game will feature an appearance by Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk.