Dragons mount comeback for fourth straight win

Dragons catcher Tyler Stephenson is too late with the tag on Elvis Rubio. The Dragons defeated the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) 3-2 in a Class A minor-league baseball game at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Dragons catcher Tyler Stephenson is too late with the tag on Elvis Rubio. The Dragons defeated the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) 3-2 in a Class A minor-league baseball game at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Dragons followed their early-season method of success to perfection Tuesday night. It’s proven to be a winning combination of great pitching, opportunistic hitting and plenty of can-do attitude.

"I told the guys, hey, if it gets to the bullpen it's going to be ours," said Dragons first baseman Avain Rachal following a 3-2 comeback defeat of the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) at Fifth Third Field. "We practice like it's a game. We're playing hard and we've got to keep it going all through the season."

That will have to play itself out. What isn’t in question is the team is quickly putting together one of its best starts in the club’s 18-year Class A minor-league baseball history. After dropping their first two games the Dragons have won four straight and will look to sweep the Whitecaps in Wednesday’s series finale.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Seventh inning stretch with the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field on Monday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Game changer: In the eighth inning Hector Vargas led off and took a mighty cut that resulted in a dribbler toward third. His infield hit was followed by Michael Beltre's perfect bunt toward third. Whitecaps losing reliever Eduardo Jimenez sailed a throw high and outside to first base, which allowed Vargas and Beltre to advance to third and second.

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T.J. Friedl answered the challenge by taking Jiminenz deep to center field for a sacrifice fly that tied it at 2-all. Jose Siri answered that by doing likewise, signaling the winning run before he reached first base.

Ryan Hendrix (1-0) worked the final two scoreless innings to earn the win. He struck out three, including the final Whitecaps batter. That set off a midfield celebration by the Dragons.

And why not? At 4-2, the Dragons haven’t been this much over .500 since July 2015.

“That’s the game,” manager Luis Bolivar said. “If the pitcher gives you a chance. There will be days when we’re good hitting-wise. We’re going to have the offense later on, when the guys get all together hitting-wise, we’re going to be fine.”

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Dragons starting pitcher Tony Santillan huddles with catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Dragons hosted the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) in a Class A minor-league baseball game at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons starting pitcher Tony Santillan huddles with catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Dragons hosted the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) in a Class A minor-league baseball game at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Dragons starting pitcher Tony Santillan huddles with catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Dragons hosted the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) in a Class A minor-league baseball game at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons' tales: Dayton was held to four hits and had no answer for Whitecaps starting pitcher Greg Soto (5 innings, 1 hit, no runs). The Dragons countered with starter Tony Santillan. He went 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs in the sixth. He also struck out six and walked one.

Santillan, Lucas Benenati (one inning, three strikeouts), Andy Cox (two-third of an inning) and Hendrix were just as outstanding. They combined for 13 strikeouts and one walk.

Rachal tripled in the seventh inning for the Dragons’ only extra-base hit. He scored on catcher Tyler Stephenson’s hit to cut Dayton’s deficit to 2-1.

“I was just looking for a fastball,” Rachal said. “He got it up and that’s all there was to it.”

On deck: Scott Moss (0-1, 4.15 ERA) gets the start Wednesday against Whitecaps starter Kyle Funkhouser (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Moss, from Deltona, Florida, is a 6-foot-6 left-hander who was a standout at the University of Florida. Like many of the current Dragons, he also figured heavily in Billings' rookie-ball success last season.

Funkhouser was the Whitecaps’ opening-day winner, a 2-0 blanking of South Bend.

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