A day that started with Dragons reliever El’Hajj Muhammad getting some boxing pointers from Dayton pro fighter Chris Pearson, as the TV cameras rolled in front of the dugout, ended with the Dragons getting pushed around by Clinton.
The LumberKings outpunched the Dragons in the first game of a three-game series, the only series between the two teams this season, winning 4-1 Wednesday at Fifth Third Field.
Both teams finished last in their respective divisions in the Midwest League in the first half, but Clinton has turned its season around in the second half. It is 14-11 and right in the middle of the playoff hunt.
The Dragons, on the other hand, have lost five of their last seven. They had some momentum when they left Dayton for a six-game road trip last week, but went 2-4 at Peoria and Burlington. Their struggles have cost them in the standings, and now 4 1/2 games separate them from a playoff berth in the Eastern Division.
“We should have at least got three wins on the road trip,” Dragons manager Delino DeShields said. “We had two one-run games we could have won easily — just bad situational offense. That’s been our struggle all year, just finding some consistency.”
In their last seven games, the Dragons have scored 15 runs in their two wins and five in their five losses.
Dayton collected just three hits against Clinton. One was a solo home run in the second by Ryan Wright, who continues to be a bright spot for the team. It was his fifth of the season and fourth in July.
The Dragons’ 1-0 lead was short lived. Clinton tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the third. In the fourth, Dragons starter Stalin Gerson gave up three singles and walked two batters. Three runs scored, and that was plenty for Clinton.
Gerson, who picked up his first win since May 27 in his last start, gave up three earned runs on eight hits in six innings.
“He had his customary one inning where he just loses it,” DeShields said. “The two walks kind of killed him that inning. Outside of that, he was good.”
Lucas O’Rear and Carlos Contreras held Clinton scoreless for the final three innings.
Diaz starts: The newest Dragon, Sammy Diaz, started at shortstop and went 1-for-4. A nondrafted free agent from Venezuela, the 21-year-old was promoted from Billings on Saturday when Spencer Dickinson was put on the disabled list.
Diaz played once before in Dayton. In 2010, he was called up at the end of the season from the Arizona League, bypassing Billings, which was in the middle of a playoff race, and appearing in six games. In fact, he made the last out of the 2010 season, flying out to left.
Diaz had been in Billings ever since until his recent promotion.