- Marcus Hartman
Early September felt more like October in more ways than one Wednesday night in downtown Dayton.
Partly cloudy skies. Temperatures in the low 60s as the sun began to set.
The smell of smoked sausages, nacho cheese and barbecued pork in the air.
And at long last playoff baseball at Fifth Third Field.
If only the Dragons could have delivered a win.
That appeared to be in the cards until the ninth inning when Aaron Fossas gave up a two-out, two-run double to West Michigan’s Danny Pinero.
The Whitecaps, winners of 91 games during the regular season, went ahead 3-2 on Pinero’s blast to deep right-center field, and Jon Schreiber slammed the door in the bottom of the inning to give West Michigan the win in the first round of this best-of-three playoff series.
Despite the inability to get that 27th out soon enough, it was a fun night downtown — enough to make one think maybe the Reds should have decided winning in the minor leagues was important a long time ago.
Seven months and a couple of days after director of player development Jeff Graupe was in the Gem City admitting 2016 was embarrassing throughout the Reds minor league system, the team’s low-A affiliate played its first postseason game since 2011.
The city and the park were up to the task, complete with a new brewery by one entrance and a beautiful sunset beyond the outfield wall.
Things started well enough for the Dragons.
Andrew Jordan pitched four perfect innings starting in place of ace Tony Santillan, who was bumped back a day because of a sore shoulder.
Jordan gave up two hits and a run in the fifth but left after six innings with a 2-1 lead thanks to a two-run homer by Bruce Yari, whose towering fly ball just kept carrying right into the new Dragons Lair in left field.
Jose Siri, the season’s biggest star for Dayton, came home on the two-run homer, and the home crowd went nuts.
That turned out to be as good as it got, at least for now.
Whether there is another game to be played in Dayton this season will depend on what happens the next two days in Comstock Park, Mich., but there seems to be something to build on anyway.
Siri, not-quite-20-year-old-outfielder Taylor Trammell and others aren’t likely to be back in Dayton next season, but there is a good chance Hunter Greene, the all-everything first-round pick of the Reds in June, will be.
Maybe the wait for the next home playoff game won’t be so long.