Dragons blank Cubs behind Varner

Dayton’s Seth Varner allowed just three hits over seven inning as the Dayton Dragons opened a seven-game homestand with a 4-0 win over South Bend.

“The first inning, my two-seamer wasn’t right and I talked to (pitching coach Tom) Browning about it because it was cutting too much,” said Varner, a Miami University graduate. “ It helped, especially with the right-handers they have … the ball was running out away from the barrels of the bat.

Dayton got a solo home run from Jimmy Pickens in the bottom of the first, a run-scoring double from Paul Kronenfeld in the second and a pair of runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Jonathan Reynoso and Ronald Bueno.

Jake Paulson came out of the bullpen to shut the Cubs out over the final two innings as Dayton improved to 24-22.

“Our starters, our bullpen, our closers, however you tag them, have been good,” Browning said. “They have made teams earn it. We are blessed with really good starters. They are hungry and they know it is not the best start.”

While the pitchers have kept teams in check, allowing three runs or less 30 times , Varner leads the team in wins after earning his fifth. The Dragons own a 2.62 ERA in May.

“Just because you pitch winning baseball doesn’t mean you are going to get the win,” Browning said. “Their job is to get us as deep (in the game) as they can with a chance to win. They have done their job above and beyond what the expectations were of them coming into the season.”

Going Gonzo: Luis Gonzalez, the Dragons shortstop, has been on a tear at the plate.

Gonzalez went 4-for-5 on Monday against West Michigan and has hit safely in 18 of the last 20 games, going 30-for-85 over the last 20 games to raise his batting average from .216 to .285.

Headed west: Aristedes Aquino and Ty Washington have headed to the Reds spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz. as they continue to try to bounce back from injuries.

Aquino, considered the best prospect on the roster heading into the season, was set to return from a broken wrist during the last home stand, but suffered a setback and was put back in a soft cast.

“It is a better chance for them to concentrate on their rehab only,” Dragons manager Jose Nieves said. “When they are here, they are on the road and they are anxious to play and we wanted to get them time where they could work on their rehab without having that anxiousness to play every day.”

Washington, a second baseman, suffered a shoulder injury on May 14 at Great Lakes.

Aquino was hitting .226 in 16 games while Washington .292 with 14 RBIs in 26 games.

Up next: The Dragons and Cubs hook up for the second game of the three-game set at 7 tonight at Fifth Third Field.

Tyler Mahle (4-3) gets the start for Dayton.

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