If the Dayton Dragons are to win a home playoff game this season, they’d better hurry up because the club is running out of time.
And the stakes couldn’t be higher.
With a 6-0 loss to the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Sunday night, the Dragons allowed the only team standing in the way of a berth in the Midwest League Championship series to stay alive.
Now, the marathon that is a professional baseball season comes down to a 100-meter sprint in a winner take all contest.
If the Dragons are victorious at Fifth Third Field tonight, they’ll clinch the Eastern Division title and will play the winner of the Quad Cities/Cedar Rapids series for a shot to win a ring.
For star outfielder Jose Siri, some new jewelry would be the perfect way to end a breakout season.
“It would be the icing on the cake pretty much,” Siri said through a translator. “We as a team have worked hard to get here, and we definitely deserve that ring.”
Heading into Game 2, Dragons pitchers had recorded a 0.95 ERA through four postseason contests, however starter Matt Blandino couldn’t keep the trend going.
Blandino surrendered five runs in just 2.1 innings. The TinCaps jumped out him early, with Brad Zunica and Marcus Greene belting homers in the second.
Dayton’s bats went quiet, producing five hits and stranding eight men on base, which made it hard for the announced crowd of 7,284 to get excited.
Despite the magnitude of the game, Dragons’ manager Luis Bolivar plans to treat the elimination game like any other contest.
“I’ll let them be and just treat it like a normal game, “he said. “I don’t need to put any pressure on them. They are aware of the situation, so just go and give the best effort out there.”
To claim victory in Game 3, the Dragons are expected to face 6-foot-8 Cuban Michel Baez. There wasn’t a lot of buzz surrounding the international free agent’s signing, but he’s made the San Diego Padres organization look pretty smart so far for paying him a $3 million signing bonus.
Baez would be pitching on four days rest, which is something he doesn’t usually do. There hadn’t been an indication yet of whether or not he’d be under an innings limit.
Through a translator, the 21-year-old said while he’s pitched important games in Cuba, this is the biggest game of his professional career.
With Fort Wayne, Baez is 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s fanned 82 in 58.2 innings.
Not to Siri, who’s taking everything in stride.
“There’s no such thing as a difficult pitcher,” he said. “Just go out there and study what he does. Last time, he threw against me well, but it’s a new day and anything can happen.”
Andrew Jordan will get the start for the Dragons. The 6-foot-3 right-hander closed out the regular season on a strong note, winning his last two starts while allowing just three earned runs and striking out 11 over 12 innings. In his postseason start against West Michigan, Jordan tossed six innings of two-hit ball, allowing only one run.
“I’m sure he’s going to go in there and attack hitters like he did … against West Michigan and try to get us deep into the game, “ Bolivar said.
Monday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Fifth Third Field.