Dragons rally from 7-0 deficit to beat Great Lakes

Dragons outfielder Quincy McAfee crosses home plate after a two-run homer in the fourth inning Tuesday night against Great Lakes for the Dragons' first runs. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

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Dragons outfielder Quincy McAfee crosses home plate after a two-run homer in the fourth inning Tuesday night against Great Lakes for the Dragons' first runs. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Every chance he gets, Jose Moreno says he is proud to manage the team he has in Dayton this summer. He likes their work ethic and attitude through the ups and downs.

“We have a bunch of grinders,” he says.

When you fall behind by seven runs after the first two innings, grinders are good to have. Quincy McAfee started the comeback with a two-run homer in the fourth inning and that momentum shift carried the Dragons to an 8-7 victory at Day Air Ballpark.

The 4,892 fans that came on the first night this season the Dragons were permitted to sell every seat roared in appreciation during every step of the comeback. It wasn’t the 8,000 or so fans the Dragons were accustomed to pre-COVID-19, but it was by far the largest and loudest crowd of the season.

“Even if we would’ve had full capacity, those fans were into it,” he said. “So I don’t think it would have been a big difference. The fan base here in Dayton is unbelievable.”

The fans witnessed an unusual comeback in many ways that allowed the Dragons to regain a share of first place in the High-A Central League with West Michigan (16-13). The comeback matched two other seven-run comebacks – 2013 and 2016 – as the biggest Dragons’ comebacks in the past 10 seasons. And the Dragons’ final six runs were unearned and five of them came with two outs.

“I’m very proud,” Moreno said. “Not because we had the win. It was the effort they bring every day no matter what.”

After McAfee made the score 7-2 with his second home run, Quin Cotton and McAfee produced five runs with two-out doubles. Cotton doubled in two runs in the fifth and McAfee hit a three-run double in the sixth to put the Dragons ahead.

“The situational hitting was huge,” Moreno said. “Our approach is to try to think like boxing. You have to jab, you have to stop the opening and you have to make points. And that’s how we did it.”

To come back, the Dragons also had to shut down Great Lakes. Carson Spiers (1-0) entered in the third inning and pitched six one-hit, one-walk innings and struck out nine. Francis Peguero pitched the ninth for his third save.

Spiers made four starts in Daytona before being promoted to Dayton on May 26. In his first two appearances with the Dragons, Spiers allowed seven runs in five innings.

“First-pitch strikes, and he was able to locate all his pitches for strikes – fastball, breaking ball, changeup,” Moreno said of the difference for Spiers on Tuesday.

Lyon Richardson had his worst start for the Dragons. He entered with a 1.33 ERA in five starts, but he gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks in two innings. Richardson was a second-round pick out of high school by the Reds in 2018 and is rated as their No. 13 prospect.

“It was a bad day,” Moreno said. “It’s a long season and there’s no reason for us to send him back out. He’ll think about it and make adjustments and be ready for the next outing.”

Recent transactions: Catcher Jose Tello landed on the injured list Monday. Tello is batting .208 in 48 at-bats with a .255 on-base percentage, six RBIs and one home run.

The Reds promoted outfielder Reniel Ozuna to Dayton from extended spring training on Sunday. Ozuna struck out in his only at-bat Sunday and did not play Tuesday.

Rey progress: Brian Rey moved up to AA Chattanooga on May 21 after winning two batter of the week awards and leading the High-A Central League in several offensive categories. With the Lookouts, Rey is batting .217 in 46 at-bats with a .302 OBP, two doubles and six RBIs.

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