Clementina bright spot in rough night for Dragons

Nick Falzerano/CONTRIBUTED
Nick Falzerano/CONTRIBUTED

Hendrik Clementina made hitting look easy for most of the first half of the Midwest League season. He was hitting in the high .300s and among the leaders in home runs, RBIs and just about every other hitting category. Hitting felt so simple.

Then his bat went silent. He entered Saturday night’s game with a .161 batting average since June 9. But Clementina began to hear good things against Lansing despite Dayton’s 5-4 error-filled loss to the Lugnuts. He heard the barrel of his bat pound a home run to center and a double to the wall in the left-center field gap.

The other good sound he heard was the home run — his team-leading 13th — hit the metal fence above the wall just to the left of batter’s eye by the party deck. The ball bounced back onto the field and the base umpire did not signal home run. Clementina suddenly had to speed up to get what appeared to be a triple. Then the home umpire consulted with his partner and ruled it a home run.

“I heard the sound of it and I know the wall doesn’t sound like that,” Clementina said.

Clementina has also heard hitting coach Daryle Ward and others tell him to simplify his approach to hitting and be the hitter he was in April and May.

“I was thinking too much and trying to do too much and trying to hit the ball farther instead of harder,” Clementina said. “And that’s where the swing and miss comes. Sometimes I think that we as players know ourself better than the coaches, but they can see things that we cannot see.”

Clementina said about five days ago his at-bats started to feel like they were supposed to. He’s still batting a respectable .272, but a hot-hitting Clementina will be good for an offense that has shown more life the past two games.

“That kind of power he has and when he’s on it with good timing and his approach is good, he’s a guy that can be a game changer,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “It’s nice when he’s having good at-bats, because he can bring the runs in.”

Clementina’s home run came on a fourth straight fastball. His double came on a second straight changeup that he said he recognized even though he was expecting a fastball.

“It was a good experience for me to get to know myself that I can do too much,” he said. “I just have to try to be simple, get in here every day, work with my coaches and try and get better.”

The Dragons (17-18, 48-55) also got a 414-foot home run to center from Raul Wallace as part of a comeback from a 4-0 deficit to tie the score 4-4. On Friday the Dragons rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Fort Wayne 8-6. But four errors that contributed to three unearned runs cost the Dragons.

Lansing (17-18, 60-45) scored the winning run on two errors on a bunt play in the eighth. Brandon Grudzielanek bunted for a sacrifice but it turned into a single on an off-balance throw by third baseman Leandro Santana. The throw was wide and the runners kept running on the errant throw. But it bounced off the back of the bullpen catcher and first baseman Reshard Munroe threw out the leader runner at the plate. Catcher Mark Kolozsvary threw to third but shortstop Jeter Downs was charged with an error for not making the catch and Grudzielanek scored.

“We didn’t catch the ball,” Bolivar said. “Like I always say — we play defense and we pitch good, we have a chance. We pitched well today, we didn’t play defense, that’s the result.”

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