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Dragons gain ground in playoff chase

Dragons manager Jose Nieves doesn’t pick the clubhouse music — or its volume — after wins. He does dictate the decibel level after losses, though.

“Just a simple rule: If we win we have fun, if we don’t win I don’t wanna hear a noise, even a fly,” Nieves said over the booming sounds of hip-hop on Sunday afternoon. “You have to respect the game.”

The Dragons turned in a playoff-worthy effort Sunday, beating West Michigan 4-2 at Fifth Third Field. The news wasn’t all good, though.

Dayton outfielder Jesse Winker was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a sprained foot. Winker leads the Dragons in home runs (16) and runs batted in (76). He was hitting .281.

“We have to rely on everybody,” Nieves said. “Even guys on the bench who got a chance to play today.”

On Sunday that was Daniel Pigott. Mostly a first baseman, Pigott started his sixth game in left field. He gave Dayton a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a line drive that just cleared the wall to reach the Dragons’ Lair.

After Sunday’s game the Dragons announced outfielder Jon Matthews was promoted from Billings. Matthews, drafted by the Reds in the 8th round of the 2011 amateur draft, is hitting .292 with three homers and eight RBI. He ranks second in the Pioneer League with 22 stolen bases. Since July 17, he’s hitting .361.

The news was better for pitcher Drew Cisco. He left Saturday’s start after just one inning with back spasms. Nieves said Cisco will be re-evaluated after going through bullpen, long toss and running sessions.

“This group is pretty young. Even with our motivation of making it to the playoffs there is no time to rush these kids,” Nieves said. “There’s no reason for it.”

There certainly was no need for it Sunday. Sal Romano held West Michigan to two hits and no runs through 5 2/3 innings and was backed by solid defense, including a pair of double plays. Offensively, Sammy Diaz and Zach Vincej both had three hits.

The win moved Dayton within a half-game of Great Lakes for the final playoff spot in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. Dayton has 14 games left, including three at Great Lakes.

“There’s that feeling in the locker room the playoffs are coming,” Pigott said. “Everybody is pretty excited about it.”

You could tell that by walking past the Dragons’ clubhouse on Sunday.

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