Dragons catcher Pabel Manzanero.Bowling Green defeated host Dayton 3-2 in a minor-league baseball season opener at Fifth Third Field on Thursday, April 4, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons rally late, win seventh straight game

When did the Dayton Dragons become the most difficult team to beat in the Midwest League?

It began a Sunday ago at Fifth Third Field. And it continued this Sunday at home in dramatic fashion. The Dragons rallied from a three-run deficit in the final two innings and earned their first walk-off win when Pabel Manzanero short-hopped the left-field wall with a bases-loaded single to send Michael Siani home for a 5-4 victory over Fort Wayne.

That’s seven straight wins for the Dragons (24-39), who moved out of last place this week in the Eastern Division.

“They’re building more confidence now,” manager Luis Bolivar said. “They believe in each other now and that they can come back and do it. I’m very proud of them.”

The Dragons loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs on singles by Randy Ventura and Michael Siani and an intentional walk to Miles Gordon. With out one out, Manzanero connected with the slider he was looking for from Fort Wayne (28-33) reliever Henry Henry.

“I’m really excited,” said Manzanero, who will represent the Dragons in the league all-star game. “I was waiting for the pitch and was just thinking I had to hit the ball to the middle.”

Manzanero was mobbed by his teammates at second base and doused with the water cooler. This kind of excitement was missing until this season-best winning streak.

“We have energy, we’re more together as a team,” Manzanero said. “I think we changed our mind. That’s the key.”

Fort Wayne built a 4-0 lead with a pair of two-out runs in the fourth and fifth innings. But the Dragons scored once in the bottom of the fifth on Ventura’s single before rallying to tie the score 4-4 with three runs in the eighth after two were out. Morgan Lofstrom lined a single to center to score Jay Schuyler, who had doubled with one out. After Miguel Hernandez walked and both baserunners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, pinch-hitter Brian Rey singled to center for two RBIs.

Bolivar told Rey — a good fastball hitter — early in the game to be ready to pinch hit.

“I was thinking he was the best matchup for him,” Bolivar said. “Brian’s getting good at-bats. I felt that was the right move to give us a better chance.”

Rey is batting .275 in 22 games since joining the Dragons from extended spring training on May 16.

“I told myself mentally I had to be ready to go in and contribute,” Rey said. “I go up there confident about every at-bat that I get, but specifically I felt comfortable up in the box today. He was throwing about 94-96 (mph), and that’s what I want to see, and that’s what I hit today.”

Hot hitters: Gordon joined the Dragons the day the winning streak began and has batted .414 with a homer and six stolen bases. Siani kept his hot stretch going with six hits in the three-game sweep at West Michigan and four hits and four walks in the Fort Wayne series. He is now batting .360 over his last 14 games. Schuyler entered Sunday’s game with a .303 average in his last 21 games.

Next: The Dragons conclude the four-game series with the TinCaps Monday night. Starting for the Dragons will be right-hander Jared Solomon (1-3, 3.60 ERA). West Michigan comes to town for a three-game series starting Tuesday.

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