The Dayton Dragons nearly pulled off a late-inning comeback for the second time in four games.
Trailing the Lansing Lugnuts 8-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Dragons designated hitter Hendrik Clementina bashed a 409-foot home run to cap a five-run rally to pull his team within one run.
Dayton was unable to pull even in its final at-bat, dropping its second straight game 8-7 in front of 7,786 fans on Tuesday at Fifth Third Field.
The Dragons took the first game of the series on July 28, beating the Lugnuts 8-6 after trailing by five runs early in the game.
Tuesday, Dayton’s Alejo Lopez led off the bottom of the ninth with a base hit, but was stranded to end the game.
“We put a good run together there, but fell short in the last inning,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “The guys gave it a good push at the end of the game. I’m proud of that.”
The 2017 Reds first-round draft pick Hunter Greene (3-7, 4.48 ERA) was expected to make his 19th start of the season, but was unexpectedly scratched before the game.
In his previous start, Greene exited the game after two innings due to an upset stomach. He missed his bullpen session later in the week, which pushed him back in the rotation, Bolivar said. He’s expected to start on the Dragons upcoming road trip.
After a second-inning home run by Lugnuts first baseman Chad Spanberger gave his team a 1-0 lead, rain poured onto Fifth Third Field. The game was delayed for nearly an hour-and-a-half.
Dragons starter Wendolyn Bautista re-entered the game after the rain delay with runners on first and second base. Third baseman Jonathan India – the Reds 2018 first-round draft pick playing in his second game with the Dragons – misplayed a ground ball, loading the bases for Lansing.
The next batter, leadoff hitter Samad Taylor, cleared the bases with a line drive double to right center field, giving Lansing a 4-0 lead.
In the Lugnuts three-run fifth inning, India took a line drive off this throwing hand and eventually left the game. He suffered a contusion in his palm, Bolivar said.
“We just wanted to make sure he’ll be OK in the long run,” he said. “There’s no reason to push him.”
Lopez went 3-for-4 for the Dragons, increasing his average to .307. Andy Sugilio went 2-for-4 and India added his first RBI for Dayton. Clementina’s home run was his 14th of the season. He leads the team in both home runs and RBIs (46).
Road Trippin’: The Dragons head out Wednesday for a 13-game, 14-day swing through four Midwest League cities spanning two states – Fort Wayne, Ind., West Michigan (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Lansing and Great Lakes (Midland, Mich).
That’s the longest road trip since the 2000 team opened the season on a 16-game trip while Fifth Third Field was being completed.
A typical long road trip spans two cities and seven games, according to the Dragons schedule.
“It’s going to be a good experience,” Bolivar said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re just going to take day-by-day.”
The Dragons next scheduled home game is Aug. 15 when Lake County comes to town for a three-game series.
Playoff push: The Dragons (18-20) remained in contention for a wild card spot in the Midwest League East Division. The West Michigan Whitecaps lead the race at 18-19, followed by Dayton. The Lake County Captains and the South Bend Cubs are a game-and-a-half back at 17-20.
The Dragons are gunning for back-to-back playoff bids for the first time since the 2007-2008 seasons. Dayton must finish in the top two among eligible teams in the second half to advance to the playoffs. Bowling Green and Lansing have already qualified after finishing atop the first half standings.