The playoffs within finger-tip grasp, the Dragons are looking for anyone to step up and lead them into the postseason.
Pitcher Nick Travieso answered the call Friday night. So did catcher Jose Ortiz and center fielder Phillip Ervin. Relievers Joel Bender and Alejandro Chacin, well, pitched in too.
Toss in some outstanding defensive plays and it all added up to a clutch 1-0 defeat of the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays) at Fifth Third Field before an announced crowd of 9,391.
“I just want to try and help my team,” said Ortiz, who crushed the first pitch he saw in the second inning nearly into the left-field concessions area. “We’re very close to the playoffs. That’s it.”
The Dragons (62-59) were among six Midwest League Eastern Division teams within 3.5 games entering Friday, and only two will advance to the playoffs. There are 17 games remaining in the second half of the regular season.
Ortiz, a 5-foot-11, 209-pounder from Comerio, Puerto Rico, inherited the No. 1 catcher slot when Joe Hudson was called up to Bakersfield (advanced Class A California League) this week.
Despite the game-winning bomb, Ortiz’s bat is still a work in progress (.220). But his work behind the plate, at least on this night, was masterful. He guided winning pitcher Travieso (11-5) through six innings of one-hit ball.
It was the same with Bender (two innings, one hit, five strikeouts) and Chacin (one inning, three strikeouts, 18th save).
“I’m a better catcher,” said Ortiz, laughing. That might be so, but he’s 6 for 14 batting over the last four games and has five RBIs.
“We worked with breaking balls and changeups; out, in. … We tried to mix it up to hitters.”
Travieso worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, getting the last of his four strikeouts to end the threat. The 2012 No. 1 draft choice of the Reds (14th overall) also tied Rafael Gonzalez for the Dragons career record for most wins (18).
It’s the sixth consecutive start Travieso has allowed two or less runs.
The Dragons remain in a tie with Great Lakes for the second-half Eastern Division wildcard spot. Both trail No. 1 seed Lake County by one-half game.
If the Dragons are to remain in contention, they’ll need plenty more of the same from everyone, including Ortiz.
“He’s been making long strides and it’s good to see him making that progress,” said Dragons manager Jose Nieves.
Dragons tales: Shortstop Alex Blandino extended his hit streak to 10 games. He’s hitting .317.
- Ronald Bueno has an eight-game hitting streak, but didn’t play against the Hot Rods.
- Today’s 7 p.m. game against the Hot Rods will be televised on WHIO-TV Ch. 7.2 and Time Warner Cable channels 23 and 372.
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