Dragons fall to Lake County

Dragons third baseman Juan Martinez fires to first base after fielding a bunt in the second inning of Sunday's game against Lake County at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Dragons third baseman Juan Martinez fires to first base after fielding a bunt in the second inning of Sunday's game against Lake County at Day Air Ballpark. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

One little error. Sometimes that’s all it takes to ruin the day.

Dayton Dragons starter JC Keys got the ground ball he needed that could have ended the second inning trailing 1-0. But shortstop Ivan Johnson did not field the ball cleanly on what could have been a double play and was charged with an error. Instead, the bases were loaded.

A two-run double, a two-run single and an RBI single later Lake County led 6-0. Four of the runs were unearned, Keys didn’t finish the inning and 12 batters came to the plate.

The game evened out, even got better, for the Dragons from there, but they were never fully back in it and lost 8-3 after a long Sunday – 3 hours, 44 minutes and 343 pitches – in the sun.

The Dragons (50-46) lost the last two games of the series, are 7-9 on Sundays and lost the series 4-2 to one of the teams they are battling for the second and final playoff spot in the High-A Central League. The Captains (52-44) own a two-game lead over the Dragons and entered Sunday two games behind Cedar Rapids.

The Dragons entered the game batting .180 in the series. They were a little better Sunday with eight hits but left 10 men on base. Two-out RBIs by Quin Cotton, who had two hits, and Juan Martinez, who had two hits, made it 6-1 and 7-2. Victor Ruiz led off the sixth with his fourth home run to make it 8-3. The Dragons tried to chip away, but they kept allowing runs and failed to score with the base loaded and none out in the seventh.

Ten walks didn’t help the Dragons and made for long innings. Two batters who walked scored. Spencer Stockton relieved Keys, who walked one, in the second and walked four in 2 1/3 innings and allowed a run. Andy Fisher walked three in one inning but escaped with no runs. Stevie Branche walked two in two innings and allowed a run.

Mercifully, beginning with Branche’s recording of the last out in the sixth, Dragons pitchers retired seven straight batters. Branche pitched a perfect seventh and Braxton Roxby pitched a perfect eighth. Roxby stranded two baserunners in the ninth.

Saturday’s game: The top Cleveland prospects with the Captains led a 9-2 victory. Daniel Espino struck out 10 and allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. Outfielder George Valera hit a two-run homer and reached base six times. The Dragons had only four hits.

A crowd of 8,144 was the largest this season at Day Air Ballpark.

Rain delay rule: A new rule instituted by Major League Baseball requires games that are delayed by rain and begin after 9 p.m. to be limited to seven innings. That happened Friday when the Dragons won 2-0 behind Eduardo Salazar’s complete game one-hitter.

Sunday games that begin after a two-hour delay will also be limited to seven innings.

Road trip: The Dragons head to Fort Wayne this week looking to stay close to Lake County and Cedar Rapids in the playoff chase. The Dragons are 7-5 against the Tincaps this season.

TUESDAY’S GAME

Dayton at Fort Wayne, 7:05 p.m., 980