Lowder missing ‘good stuff’ as Dragons fall to Fort Wayne

Rhett Lowder’s first two starts for the Dayton Dragons — nine innings, one run — had fans wondering about how long last year’s first-round draft choice will stay in A ball. Friday night’s start showed there is work to do, things to learn, situations to manage.

But Lowder’s night on the mound wasn’t at all the kind that gives a team little chance to win. He kept the Dragons in the game, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings. But the Dragons failed to score after the third inning and lost 5-3 to Fort Wayne.

“I didn’t feel like I had my good stuff tonight — just didn’t have anything to rely on,” Lowder said. “I was out there battling, and I felt like I did a pretty good job of battling and keeping us in it. But definitely not as sharp as I wanted to be.”

The Dragons (6-7) gave Lowder a 3-0 lead with an unearned run in the second and two runs in the third on RBI singles by Ruben Ibarra and Cade Hunter. Lowder didn’t get hit hard in the first three innings and got a double-play grounder.

But in the fourth two walks came back to bite Lowder. Left-handed hitting Kai Murphy hit a 1-2 pitch into the right-field corner for a two-out, two-run double to trim Dayton’s lead to 3-2. In the fifth, another walked batter scored on a single by Ethan Salas, another left-handed hitter.

“I didn’t really have the slider that I typically do that helps me out against some of the left-handed hitters,” Lowder said. “I just kept getting behind in the counts, and it kind of led me to throw them kind of what they were anticipating or what they wanted.”

The first thing Dragons manager Vince Harrison mentioned were the three walks.

“He didn’t have to pinpoint control today,” Harrison said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to navigate through those days when you don’t have your best stuff, and I think that’s part of the development of young guys.”

An offensive development Harrison would like to see is better at-bats through the middle innings. The Dragons often score early and show the ability to score late at times like they did Thursday to force extra innings.

Beginning with the final out of the third, eight straight Dragons made outs, and they had only three hits over the final six innings. In their losses, the Dragons have had chances in the middle-to-late innings, but they’ve generally been less successful against relievers than starters.

“We do a really good job of coming out with good energy, but that middle of the game, we’ve just been squandering opportunities,” Harrison said. “It’s fun when we can score early and get a lead or come back, but you’ve got to find a way to win an ugly game.”

The Tincaps (6-6) made ugly look beautiful for themselves in the eighth inning against reliever Myles Gayman (0-3) who had another rough outing and saw his ERA grow to 9.58.

A walk, stolen base, bloop single and another walk loaded the bases for the Tincaps. Gayman struck out the next batter, but Murphy singled in the go-ahead run on the next pitch. And a sacrifice fly made it 5-3. The Dragons went down in order in the eighth and ninth innings.

“We’ve been doing a really good job of getting to the starters, but not being able to maintain that,” Harrison said. “We’ve got to continue to preach to our hitters to trust an approach. It’s tough because we’re right there.”

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