Dragons drop series finale to Loons; 12-game road trip up next

Walking lead-off batters, infield errors, base-running mistakes.

Dayton Dragons manager Vince Harrison Jr. calls them free 90s – the 90 feet from base to base you give to the other team’s offense and the 90-feet opportunities your offense doesn’t take back.

During a six-game series split this past week with the Great Lakes Loons, the free 90s dotted the scorecard every game for the young Dragons, even in Friday and Saturday walk-offs.

“It was like that the whole series, and that’s what gets overshadowed with the wins,” Harrison Jr. said. “We got to keep hitting on it.”

Sunday’s 4-2 series finale loss to the Loons produced more teachable moments for Harrison Jr. and his staff.

“We just didn’t, didn’t play well,” he said.

Three of the Loons’ runs were scored by players who drew lead-off walks. The first run scored on an error by shortstop Victor Acosta. The infield was in with one out and a runner on third. Acosta charged a bouncer and missed it. An errant pick-off throw to first base by Luis Mey in the ninth allowed a runner to score from third for the final Loons run.

Dayton’s only runs came on a lead-off homer by Carlos Jorge in the fourth and a two-out homer by Jose Serrano in the same inning. But the 2-2 tie disappeared on a double by Thayron Liranzo in the fifth.

The sixth had a promising start for the Dragons on Sal Stewart’s single. But he was caught stealing second on a play that began with a pick-off throw to first. Cam Collier was picked off first in the third.

“We didn’t take care of what we could,” Harrison Jr. said. “And that’s the base running, the walks, the free outs.”

A positive development for the Dragons’ lineup in the series was the hitting of center fielder Jorge. He hit three home runs to reach nine for the season and batted .318 (7 for 22) to raise his average to .208.

“I’m getting ready, I’m looking for my pitch and I didn’t miss it,” Jorge said. “I’m doing some adjustments with my hitting coach, and we’re doing a great job with it.”

The Dragons have depended on the top part of the order this season of Hector Rodriguez, Jay Allen II, Collier and Stewart. Jorge, who has been batting fifth, helped make for a deeper lineup this week.

“He’s just staying through the ball,” Harrison Jr. said. “A lot of his outs are rollovers and swinging through off-speed pitches. This week he’s not rolling over fastballs and hitting the ball on a line like the homer today – trying to get him to do more of the line-drive approach.”

As the Dragons embark on a two-week, 12-game road trip to West Michigan and Fort Wayne, the Reds have decisions to make about the starting rotation. Johnathan Harmon, who was on the best roll of professional career, left Wednesday’s game in the first inning with an arm injury. Harrison Jr. said Harmon is out for the foreseeable future, but he didn’t describe the nature of the injury or the Reds’ plans for Harmon.

The Dragons operated with a six-man starting rotation until Sunday. Javi Rivera allowed two runs in six innings and won Tuesday’s series opener. He pitched three scoreless innings Sunday and allowed two hits on two fewer days of rest than he is accustomed to.

“He was on a short rest and was a max four innings, maybe,” Harrison Jr. said. “We just felt we didn’t need to push him back out there that fourth inning.”

The Dragons (31-32) conclude the Midwest League’s first half on Thursday. The will need to win two of three to finish the at .500 and all three for a winning record. The Dragons finished 33-33 in the first half last year and 39-27 in 2022. Those two second-place finishes were followed up by fourth-place second-half finishes.

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