Richardson strong for Dragons in losing effort

Dragons pitcher Lyon Richardson throws in the second inning Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Richardson entered in the second inning after Reds reliever Michael Feliz pitched the first inning in a rehab outing. Richardson pitched six innings and allowed one run one hit. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Dragons pitcher Lyon Richardson throws in the second inning Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Richardson entered in the second inning after Reds reliever Michael Feliz pitched the first inning in a rehab outing. Richardson pitched six innings and allowed one run one hit. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Lyon Richardson walked to the mound in the second inning Tuesday night trailing 4-1. This time the deficit wasn’t his fault, but there was pressure to keep his team close.

Reds reliever Michael Feliz pitched the first inning on a rehab assignment and allowed four runs, including a three-run homer to Joe Naranjo. But like Richardson is learning to do when things don’t go well for him, he didn’t let the deficit affect his performance.

“It’s the same process,” he said. “It’s just coming in with an inning gone. Not a big deal.”

The Dragons lost 7-4 to Lake County to open the homestand, but Richardson dominated the Captains for six innings.

“I think it was his best one so far,” Dragons manager Jose Moreno said. “He was aggressive, he was throwing his breaking pitch and fastball for strikes. Most of the time was ahead in the count, so he was able to attack the hitters.”

Richardson, a second-round pick out of high school in 2018, allowed one run on one hit in six innings and struck out five.

“I got ahead a lot, fastball location was good, cutter was good, change up was definitely my out pitch today,” he said. “Everything was a lot sharper than it has been.”

Richardson’s previous best outing was a seven-inning start against Fort Wayne on June 19. He worked seven innings and allowed one run on two hits and struck out 10. Since then his longest outing was 4 1/3 innings and his shortest was two-thirds of an inning. His ERA rose from 4.32 to 5.72.

“Everybody’s gonna struggle,” he said. “It’s how you come back from it. Watch video and see what you were doing in that outing compared to that outing. Just making improvements on what you’re not good at.”

Richardson is 21 and the Dragons’ youngest player. Moreno likes the maturation he is seeing in Richardson, who is rated the No. 13 prospect in the Reds’ organization by Baseball America.

“When you’re coming from high school maybe you’re the best player on the team, and then when you go to professional baseball almost everyone’s at the same level,” Moreno said. “He’s learning right now and this is a great experience for him the first time playing a full season.”

Reds reliever Michael Feliz walks off the mound as Lake County's Joe Naranjo rounds third base after homering to right Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Feliz was making a rehab appearance with the Dragons and allowed four runs in one inning. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
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Reds reliever Michael Feliz walks off the mound as Lake County's Joe Naranjo rounds third base after homering to right Tuesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Feliz was making a rehab appearance with the Dragons and allowed four runs in one inning. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

The Dragons outhit the Captains 12-6 but the big hits needed to get to the lead were missing again. The Dragons were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base. Several Dragons are hitting over .300 in recent games, but they have scored more than four runs only twice in their last 12 games.

“The key right now is with runners in scoring position we are not taking real good ABs,” Moreno said. “We need to do a better job, better approach with runners in scoring position.”

Francisco Urbaez’s bat is still hot. He went 3-for-4 to raise his average to .340 and hit an inside-the-park homer in the first inning. The last inside-the-park homer for the Dragons was by Narciso Crook on May 4, 2018, at Clinton. Victor Ruiz, Miguel Hernandez and Jacob Hurtubise had two hits apiece. Ruiz had two RBIs.

Playoff picture: The Dragons (39-33) dropped to 1.5 games out of the second playoff spot behind Cedar Rapids (41-32). The Dragons also trail Great Lakes (40-33) by half a game in the High A Central League East Division. Lake County (39-34) is half a game behind the Dragons.

Pitcher of the week: Carson Spiers won his second HACL Pitcher of the Week award for the week of July 19-25. Spiers, who also earned the award for June 7-13, won both of his starts at Fort Wayne with a 0.90 ERA and 15 strikeouts. He pitched five scoreless innings and allowed two hits on July 20. He allowed one run on three hits in five innings on Sunday.