The Great Lakes Loons unloaded a downer on what was otherwise a festive mood with the Dayton Dragons on Thursday.
PHOTO GALLERY AT END
Earlier in the day Dragons manager Luis Bolivar became a U.S. citizen, a swearing-in ceremony that was attended by all the Dragons, friends and family. But the Dragons couldn’t complete the day’s task, falling 8-3 to the Loons (Dodgers) at Fifth Third Field.
That completes the first-half home schedule for the Dragons and further muddles a Midwest League Class A minor-league baseball wildcard bid. Dayton entered the game with a one-game advantage over South Bend in the wildcard chase. South Bend lost both games of a doubleheader against Lansing.
MEET THE DRAGONS: Pitcher Carlos Machorro
That leaves Dayton 1.5 games ahead of South Bend and Lansing. The Dragons’ magic number - any combination of Dayton wins and South Bend and Lansing losses - is two with three games remaining.
Dayton’s final three first-half games are at Fort Wayne on Friday through Sunday. South Bend and West Michigan (44-22) clinched the East Division and will join the wildcard winner in the postseason.
Dragons losing pitcher Tony Santillan (4-3) allowed four runs in the first inning, including a three-run homer by Oneil Cruz. That seemed to ignite a feisty showdown for the remainder of a marathon that lasted 3.5 hours. Santillan, gestering as he was leaving the field, was thrown out of the game by home-plate umpire Dexter Kelley after being pulled. Santillan lasted just 4.2 innings.
Dayton closed to within 4-3 after four innings, featuring a pair of solo homers by Hector Vargas and Taylor Trammell. But Dragons reliever Carlos Machorro couldn’t keep Dayton close.
Vargas had three hits to raise his average to .197. T.J. Friedl also had two hits. The teams split the four-game series.
Dragons’ tales: As expected, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey was removed from the Dragons’ roster following Wednesday’s impressive 6-inning, 1-hit MLB rehab start. He was the pitcher of record in a 4-2 defeat of the Loons.
Coming off a couple elbow surgeries, he’ll next throw a bullpen session at Great American Ball Park, likely this weekend. If that goes as well as he fared in abbreviated outings at Dayton and prior to that at Class AA Pensacola, he could be back on the Reds’ roster by the end of June.
Bailey was a gracious guest in his one-game stay. He hasn’t pitched for the Reds since shutting down early last season.
“It’s just been such a long process and as long as you’re still trying to improve your craft, even when you don’t throw or you don’t feel good throwing, you start to learn a lot,” he said. “You start picking up things here and there because you’re forced to watch things because you can’t play.”
Bailey insisted his style of pitching hasn’t changed, but “having better command has been a big benefit. Throw the hell out of it and hope they get out. Whatever number the catcher puts down, just try to throw it where the glove is.”
• Dayton ends the first half of the season tied for the most home wins at Fifth Third Field in a half. Thursday’s loss to the Loons completes Dayton’s first-half home record at 25-11.
The Dragons were 25-10 at home in the second half of the 2011 season and 25-11 at home in the first half of 2007. Both those team lost in the opening quarterfinals of the Midwest League playoffs.
• Reliever Ryan Hendrix (4-1, 2.43 ERA) has been nearly flawless of late. He hasn’t allowed a base runner in his last five appearances that covered seven innings and four saves. In his last 16 appearances, he’s lasted 25.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs on nine hits. He ranks first among Midwest League relievers with 58 strikeouts in 33.1 innings.
• Trammell extended his hot hitting streak. Besides the homer, he was 8 of 18 in the previous five games (.444).
Dayton at Fort Wayne, 7 p.m.
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