First-place Dragons lose second straight to Whitecaps

Sunday was forgettable for the Dayton Dragons – a 13-4 loss to West Michigan. But it might be a day center fielder Michael Siani remembers as the afternoon when he his bat came alive.

Siani had three hits, including a double, an RBI and a run scored. After looking at a batting average under .200 for much of the season, Siani is hitting .222 with half the season left.

“These are the type of games where you’ve just got to lock in for every at-bat,” he said. “You can’t give away at-bats because those add up over the season. I felt good today – a couple good swings. It’s just a matter of being more consistent.”

Siani, who is left-handed, is viewed as the Reds’ No. 10 prospect by Baseball America and rated as the best athlete and defensive outfielder in the organization. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2018 out of high school. He batted .253 with six homers and 45 stolen bases in 2019 for the Dragons when they played at the Low-A level.

The adjustment to High-A this season has included a slow start after rehabbing a slight UCL sprain in his left elbow well into the early season. As Siani was progressing at how far he was permitted to throw the baseball, he was the DH 19 times before he was able to return to center field.

“I’ll be honest with you – I don’t like DHing,” he said. “When you make an out you don’t have the field to go to and have the chance to think about other things.”

At the beginning of the season Siani wasn’t cleared to DH every day. He had required days off for the first few weeks.

“To get the timing you have to play every day,” Dragons manager Jose Moreno said. “I think he’s putting it together right now and will hopefully continue to hit the ball well like he’s been doing for the last two days.”

Moreno, who along with hitting coach Daryle Ward works with the hitters, wants Siani to keep doing what he did when he got a ninth-inning line drive single Saturday and three solid hits Sunday.

“He has to continue to have that approach to hit line drives and use all of the field because he was chasing,” Moreno said. “And sometimes he was taking the first pitch for a strike or when he swings the bat he missed that pitch and then after that they threw breaking balls out of the strike zone and he was swinging at those pitches. But now the last two games he was patient and had good at-bats.”

Siani finished Sunday 3-for-5 when he went with the pitch to the opposite field and flew out to left in the ninth inning. Moreno was happy with that at-bat.

“Even if that was an out, that was a great at-bat because I haven’t seen that in the past,” Moreno said. “That’s the player to be honest that I see him in the future at the big-league level if he’s going to have the opportunity to play there.”

Other than Siani, there wasn’t much for Moreno to like Sunday. The Whitecaps used two big innings and 15 hits to beat the top the Dragons for only the fourth time in 11 tries and for the second time in two days. The Dragons won the series 4-2.

“This game is about execution, and we didn’t execute real well the last two games,” Moreno said. “The goal to win the series was there, and you’re not going to win every game. At least we tried to play good baseball.”

The Dragons (34-25), however, maintained a 2.5-game hold on first place in the High-A Central East Division over Great Lakes and Lake County as the season reached the halfway point. The Dragons are also second place overall in the league in the race for one of two playoff spots by a half-game over Cedar Rapids of the West.

The Whitecaps (27-31) scored four runs in the third and five in the sixth to build a 9-3 lead. The sixth-inning rally was the tough one to take.

The Dragons had rallied to trail 4-3 in the fourth. Siani singled in the first run and scored the second when he stole third and trotted home on an overthrow by the catcher.

Dragons reliever Andy Fisher gave up a leadoff single in the sixth but got a double play. Then he struck out Parker Meadows for what appeared to be the third out. But the pitch got past catcher James Free for a wild pitch to allow Meadows to reach first base.

Meadows stole second and scored on a single. Jesse Stallings relieved Fisher and walked his first batter. Then big first baseman Rey Rivera hit a three-run homer. Two more hits produced another run and the Dragons trailed 9-3.

Next series: The Dragons stay home this week for a six-game series with Great Lakes. The Dragons’ scheduled starters are Carson Spiers (1-1, 4.55 ERA), Lyon Richardson (2-3, 5.53), Eduardo Salazar (2-2, 3.34), Noah Davis (2-5, 3.42), Jacques Pucheu (3-1, 4.75) and Spiers.

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