It’s too late for the Dragons to mount a rally and qualify for a second-half spot in the Midwest League playoffs. But it’s the right time to impress the coaching staff and the parent Cincinnati Reds.
That was the message from Dragons manager Dick Schofield following a 3-2 defeat of the visiting Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres) on Tuesday night at Fifth Third Field.
“These games count just as much as they do in April,” said Schofield after the Dragons posted their season-high fourth straight win. “These kids are fighting and battling for next year as well. You scrap and claw to get as many good at-bats as they can and it will make a difference come spring training.”
Actually, the Dragons have not been eliminated from playoff contention, but they would have to post the mother of all win streaks with 19 games remaining. Instead, another dose of timely hitting and outstanding pitching will have to do.
Shortstop Luis Gonzalez led off the eighth inning with a triple to right and designated hitter Nick Senzel followed with a bomb to right that went for a sacrifice fly and held up for the winning run.
That made a winner of Manuel Aybar (3-5), who went two scoreless innings and struck out four. Just as impressive, closer Sarkis Ohanian pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two and notching his 12th save.
It hasn’t been often the Dragons (39-82 overall) have delivered late like that.
“Now, we’re going to try and keep the winning streak going and hope it keeps working out to win more games,” said Gonzalez through interpreter and pitcher Jacob Constante. “We’re trying to get more guys going.”
Shane Mardirosian’s two-run homer in the fourth drew the Dragons even, 2-2, following a single by catcher Chris Okey.
Pitcher Wendolyn Bautista made his first start in his second stint with the Dragons. He was transferred from Daytona to replace Alex Webb, who was placed on the disabled list with a broken left foot. Bautista previously had three relief appearances for Dayton.
Bautista allowed two runs over five innings, both on solo homers. Braulio Ortiz also pitched a scoreless sixth for the Dragons. Gonzalez and Okey each had two hits.
Anderson Espinoza started for the TinCaps. Rated the No. 1 prospect for the Padres, he was acquired from the Red Sox on July 14 for All-Star pitcher Drew Pomeranz, who made his first start for Boston on Tuesday.
“We’ve played well off and on throughout the year, but this is one of the better streaks,” Schofield said. “They’re getting rewarded for what they’ve done all year. They bust their tails and they’re playing well.”