When Ricky Salinas needed a strike, he knew exactly where to turn — his curveball.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Dayton Dragons right-hander from Houston, Texas struck out a career-high 10 batters in five innings against the Clinton LumberKings on Wednesday, the majority coming from his breaking ball.
“That’s usually my out pitch,” Salinas said. “Whenever I got to two strikes, I knew I could throw the heck out of my curveball and either get them swinging or get them looking.”
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Salinas earned his first win of the season as the Dragons hitters busted out for seven runs in the fifth inning to beat Clinton 9-5 in front of 8,864 fans at Fifth Third Field.
It was the second straight series victory for the Dragons (12-20). Dayton has won four of its last six games after losing six straight games from April 26 through May 2. Mariel Bautista, Jay Schuyler and Bren Spillane each had two RBIs for the Dragons.
“We needed this series,” Salinas said. “We’ve had a bad start to the season. Lately, we’re starting to pick up and we’re trying to climb back in that race to get to first.”
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Of his 81 pitches, Salinas threw 59 for strikes — the most he’s thrown this season.
“The main thing was just throwing strikes, locating my fastball in-and-out, up-and-down,” he said. “I feel good. I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy.”
Salinas got the run support he needed in the fifth inning.
Trailing 3-2, the Dragons bats’ came alive. With one out, the Dragons loaded the bases on a single by Miguel Hernandez, a double by Jonathan Willems and a walk to Juan Martinez, chasing LumberKings starter Tanner Andrews. Bautista followed with a double to left field, scoring Hernandez and Willems to make it 4-3.
“The guys made a good adjustment against their starter and Bautista came up big against the new pitcher,” said Dragons manager Luis Bolivar. “He was ready to hit with a man in scoring position and that was good.”
After a walk to Shard Munroe loaded the bases, Schuyler doubled to right field, scoring all three runners to make it 7-4.
One pitch later, Spillane smashed a 397-foot home run — his second of the series — to give the Dragons a 9-3 lead.
The LumberKings took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a RBI single by Will Banfield. Clinton added another run on an RBI single by Connor Scott in the second inning to make it 3-0.
The Dragons scored two runs on wild pitches by Andrews to pull within one run at 3-2 before taking the lead for good in the fifth.
Clinton added runs in the seventh and ninth inning, but couldn’t pull any closer.
Dayton begins a three-game series against the Burlington Bees on Thursday, all 7 p.m. starts. On Friday, Dayton’s James Marinan (1-3, 5.40 ERA) is scheduled to face Burlington’s Cole Duensing (2-2, 2.96). The Dragons’ Lyon Richardson (0-3, 5.47 ERA) is slated to face Burlington’s Cristopher Molina (1-1, 1.61) in the series finale on Saturday.
A second straight series win should give the Dragons confidence, Bolivar said, heading into the weekend series against Burlington (19-14), the second-place team in the Midwest League Western Division.
“(The series win) tells them they can do good things out there,” Bolivar said. “Hopefully, they keep rolling with it.”
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