The Dayton Dragons’ nemesis found a way to beat them in the late innings once again on Monday night.
Lansing’s Ryan Noda doubled in the top of the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie as the Lugnuts beat the Dragons 3-1 in front of 8,472 fans at Fifth Third Field.
With the win, the Lugnuts improved to 18-4 against the Dragons this season. The two teams have played 11 times in the last 31 days.
“It’s been tough against them,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “We’ve played close games against them the entire second half, but we just can’t seem to pull it off.”
Lansing is headed to the playoffs this season after finishing as the runner-up in the first half.
The Dragons aren’t mathematically eliminated from the playoff race yet, but it will take a monumental effort and a little bit of luck to advance for the second straight season.
Dayton is 25-39 in the second half of the Midwest League standings. They sit 5.5-games back of Fort Wayne (30-33) for the second wildcard spot with six games remaining.
“We’ve got to keep playing and see what happens,” Bolivar said.
The Lugnuts got on the board early as leadoff hitter Samad Taylor doubled and the next hitter Vinny Capra singled to give Lansing a 1-0 lead.
Dayton tied the game in the bottom of the first inning. Shortstop Jose Garcia doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by catcher Hendrik Clementina.
From that point forward, the game belonged to the pitching staffs.
Dragons starter Packy Naughton allowed just four more hits, striking out four with no walks and one earned run in five innings pitched. He was followed by Ryan Nutof, who allowed just one hit and one walk in three innings of scoreless relief.
“The pitching gave us a chance tonight,” Bolivar said. “Packy and Nutof did an outstanding job out there but didn’t get any help from the offense. We had a few opportunities there and we wasted them.”
Lansing starter Kyle Weatherly gave up just one run on six innings pitched, including one walk and two strikeouts. Braydon Bouchey also pitched two innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one walk.
The Dragons best chance to score came in the of the sixth inning. Clementina led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Weatherly. However, a groundout to first by Andy Sugilio, a strikeout by Leandro Santana and a groundout to third by Mark Kolosvary ended the threat.
“We were trying to get a good pitch to hit, but we were just too aggressive and started chasing balls,” Bolivar said. “You have to have a good approach at the plate in those situations.
Aneurys Zabala replaced Nutof in the top of the ninth inning. He walked Chavez Young, who stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error by Clementina. Noda then doubled to score Young and give the Lugnuts the lead for good.
In the final eight innings, the Dragons left nine runners on base, going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
“You have to take advantage of those situations,” Bolivar said.
Award winner: Garcia was named the Midwest League Batter of the Week for Aug. 13 through 19, batting .448 (13-for-29) with two home runs. Garcia has hit safely in his last 13 games, going 1-for-4 on Tuesday.
Three to go: After an off-day on Tuesday, the Dragons will wrap up its final homestand of the season with three games against the West Michigan Whitecaps on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Dayton wraps up the season Saturday-Monday at Bowling Green.