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Second-half playoff hopes running out on Dragons

The Dayton Dragons have seven games left and the prospect of a Midwest League playoff berth is unlikely. The Dragons are in last place, have four teams to overcome and are 4.5 games out of the last available spot.

But it’s no time for players trying to make an impression to stop trying to make an impression even if they realize their last game will be on Labor Day. Evaluations and reports to the Cincinnati Reds’ farm director never stop.

“You can’t forget about that — Game 1 or Game 140,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “You have to keep working, play the game and get better.”

Plenty of Dragons are showing that with their play despite the team’s inability to put a winning streak together. On Saturday, the Dragons beat Lansing, one of their nemesis opponents this season. On Sunday, the Dragons had a lead but the game fell apart on them in the last two innings and they lost 9-5.

The Dragons (56-75, 25-38 second half) took a 3-2 lead in the third inning when Jeter Downs hit his 12th home run. Alejo Lopez, who had three hits, doubled in the fourth for a 4-2 lead. But the Lugnuts (77-56, 34-29) scored single runs in the fifth, sixth and eighth to take a 5-4 lead. The Dragons have had enough late-inning rallies this season to maintain hope, so Bolivar sent closer John Ghyzel to the mound in the ninth to keep it close.

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Ghyzel, however, had his worst outing of the season. He allowed a lead-off homer to Reggie Pruitt, only his third this season. The inning got worse when Brandon Grudzielanek hit a towering three-run homer well over 400 feet off the dragon’s foot at the top left of the scoreboard for a 9-4 lead.

Ghyzel had allowed just one homer this season in 40.2 innings. His ERA went from 3.32 to 4.25. Ghyzel’s fastball was in the low 90s and has been in recent outings. Earlier in the season he was in the mid to upper 90s.

“He didn’t have it (Sunday),” Bolivar said. “He’s says he’s healthy. The ball’s not coming out of his hand the way it was before.”

The Dragons had 14 hits. Lopez and Andy Sugilio continued to hit well. Lopez was 3-for-4 with two doubles and Sugilio was 4-for-5. Lopez is hitting .372 over his last 38 games. Sugilio is hitting .377 over his last 19 games. The list goes on. J.D. Williams had two hits and is hitting .333 over his last 16 games. Jose Garcia extended his hitting streak to 12 games and his hitting .357 in those games.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Bolivar said. “They have to finish strong and stay healthy. That’s what they have to play for.”

Getting back on the field is the goal for third baseman Jonathan India and center fielder Lorenzo Cedrola.

India, the Reds’ No. 1 draft choice this year, has missed three games with strep throat. Bolivar said India was feeling better Sunday with no fever and should be in the lineup Monday. India is hitting .197 in 21 games with the Dragons.

Cedrola ran into the center-field fence chasing a fly ball Saturday that turned into an inside-the-park homer when he was unable to get up. He has a lower-back contusion and is considered day-t0-day.

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