Lively bats not enough for Dragons in 11-10 loss to TinCaps

Hitting consistency eludes the Dayton Dragons this season like sky-high popups can make fielders look lost on a windy day.

During this week’s six-game home series, the Dragons scored 0, 1, 7, 2, 1 and 10 runs. They won the middle two games. They lost the other four, including Sunday’s 11-10 are-you-kidding-me defeat to Fort Wayne at Day Air Ballpark on an eighth-inning grand slam.

Despite the lively bats on Sunday, the Dragons (17-22) are 10th in the 12-team Midwest League in batting average, somehow fifth in runs scored, and no team strikes out more by a wide margin.

Ruben Ibarra, the Dragons’ 6-foot-4, 290-pound first baseman and dugout philosopher, tried to answer the impossible question to answer in baseball. What’s it take to hit more consistently as a team?

“That one’s kind of tough because I can’t voice over one main general idea,” he said. “But it’s the game of baseball – it is how it is. It’s uncontrollable. You can hit three balls as hard as you can, hit a PR in exit velo but it’s right at someone, and you can have three broken-bat base hits, and you just kind of scratch your head.”

There was much head-scratching after this loss, which dropped the Dragons to 3-12 in one-run games. The highs and lows of the season were summed up in the bottom of the seventh and the top of the eighth.

Ibarra’s second double of the game and second of the season scored two runs and tied the score 7-7.

“It all kind of ripple effects down,” Ibarra said, hinting at one of the things needed to establish consistency. “Starting guy gets on, followed up with another guy getting on, which makes my job easy. No outs, bases loaded, it’s the easiest job in the world.”

The Dragons played for one run to get the lead with a sacrifice bunt, but that wasn’t needed. Justice Thompson hit a 421-foot home run, his second this season, to dead center for a 10-7 lead.

“It was breathtaking,” Ibarra said. “We’ve just been talking about swings, and we just work on each others’ swings and give each other feedback. Seeing him have that success, I was just super happy for him because I could feel it for him too.”

However, Fort Wayne’s Nathan Martorella must think a lot like Ibarra when he bats with no outs and the bases loaded. Dragons reliever Dennis Boatman walked two and allowed a hit to start the eighth. The Dragons turned to Jake Gozzo, who hadn’t allowed a home run in nine appearances and was armed with a 1.32 ERA.

Martorella, however, did Thompson one better with a suck-the-air-out-of-the-stadium grand slam 427 feet off the batter’s eye in center to put the TinCaps in the lead. Martorella’s homer was his seventh and he’s second in the league with 30 RBIs.

The Dragons went down 1-2-3 in the ninth.

A natural question for the Dragons is are they putting too much pressure on themselves to produce? Does pressure lead to too many strikeouts? Does it have anything to do with batting only .204 with runners in scoring position?

“My response to that is pressure busts pipes, not the Dragons,” Ibarra said. “We’re all dogs. We all came to the realization we were all three, four hitters for our high school teams, our college teams, and that’s why we’re here because we’re all valuable players. So once we gel together and realize that, and everyone has a job and position, and we start doing it like we demonstrated today, we’re going to be in a really good position moving forward.”

The Dragons are seven games out of first place in the East Division ahead of only Fort Wayne (15-24). Catching Great Lakes is a lot to expect in the first half. But there’s always the second half for making a playoff push. If they Dragons can do that, it will be because of the way they played down 4-0 and 7-4 on Sunday.

“It shows we’ve got heart, it shows we’re not going to be a team you can’t easily put away,” Ibarra said. “A lot of that just comes from the grit and dog in us.”

Saturday’s game: Jose Acuna continued the run of good starting pitching and left after five innings with the scored tied 1-1. The Tincaps scored off three different Dayton relievers and won 5-1. Acuna allowed three hits, walked one and struck out seven.

Dayton’s Edwin Arroyo had two hits, including a double, and an RBI. Austin Callahan also had two hits.

Next series: The Dragons travel to South Bend, which is 22-16 and leads the West Division. Tuesday’s Dayton starter is Hunter Parks followed by Chase Petty and Javi Rivera.


Dayton at South Bend, 6:05 p.m., 980

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