Red Sox starting pitcher Brian Johnson warms up during his rehab start for the Portland Sea Dogs on Sunday at Hadlock Field. Johnson allowed five runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings in the Sea Dogs’ 7-2 loss to Altoona. Portland Press Herald photo by Jill Brady

Left-hander Brian Johnson returned Sunday to Hadlock Field for the first time since 2014, when he helped the Portland Sea Dogs win a division title.

Portland has failed to have a winning record in the ensuing five seasons. So maybe Johnson’s appearance would help get them off the schneid?

“Not with my outing today,” Johnson said after he failed to complete the third inning in a 7-2 loss to the Altoona Curve before a sellout crowd of 7,368.

The rehabbing Red Sox pitcher looked sharp in a perfect first inning, throwing 8 of 10 pitches for strikes and retiring all three batters. When Jeremy Rivera golfed the first pitch in the bottom of the inning over the left-field wall to give the Sea Dogs a 1-0 lead, they appeared poised to deliver their first three-game winning streak of the season.

It wasn’t to be. Altoona starter Sean Brady (2-4) set down the next 17 Sea Dogs in order and the Curve took advantage of Johnson’s not-there-yet status as he attempts to recover from the left elbow inflammation that has kept him on the injured list since April 6.

“It’s spring training for him,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott said of Johnson. “He’s just got to get control of his pitches and his mechanics, and build arm strength at the same time. For the most part he achieved that. He got his pitch count up.”

Jerrick Suiter belted a two-run homer in the second and Altoona tacked on four runs in the third, with Johnson departing after Logan Hill’s RBI double made it 3-1.

In all, Johnson faced 13 batters and started 10 of them with a strike. He threw 56 pitches, 32 for strikes.

“Out of the windup I feel great,” Johnson said. “Out of the stretch I’ve got some stuff I need to work on. But physically I feel good. It was a step in the right direction mechanically.”

Konner Wade came on in relief and allowed a two-out, three-run double by Mitchell Tolman that gave the Curve, who had lost five straight games, a 7-1 lead.

Johnson returned to Boston after the game for further evaluation of his arm. He started for the Sea Dogs on Tuesday in Trenton and left in the second inning after 54 pitches. His first rehab appearance was May 15 with Pawtucket.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about results,” Johnson said. “I don’t want to go out there and give up runs. But when you’re not right mechanically, it’s going to happen. When you fall behind in the count, you’re going to get hit.”

Rivera’s home run was his second of the season and the first over the left-field wall by a Sea Dogs batter not named Bobby Dalbec, who has cleared it four times. Brady, a left-hander who started the season with Akron, didn’t allow another baserunner until Rivera’s two-out wall double in the sixth.

“That’s so disappointing to set the tone that way on the first pitch and then the offense just absolutely disappeared,” said Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver, whose club put up five runs in the first inning Saturday but nothing more in a 5-3 victory. “I hope that’s not a trend.”

Brett Netzer followed Rivera’s double with an RBI single for Portland’s second run. The only other Sea Dog to reach base over the final three innings was Dalbec, after swinging at a wild pitch to strike out in the ninth.

NOTES: Johnson said aside from winning the 2018 World Series with the Red Sox, his best season in baseball was with the 2014 Sea Dogs. “It was a special group of guys, we had a great year and I had a great host family,” he said. “This place will always be special to me.” …  Brady had given up 10 hits in each of his previous two starts. In April he pitched with Triple-A Columbus. He said he enjoyed opposing a big-league pitcher such as Johnson. “It’s awesome for him to come rehab down here and see these guys hit off him,” Brady said, “but the other pitcher usually doesn’t affect you.”

Portland’s Jake Romanski tosses his bat after striking out in the third inning of the Sea Dogs’ 7-2 loss to Altoona on Sunday at Hadlock Field. Portland Press Herald photo by Jill Brady

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