DAYTON, Ohio – Sean Buckley and Phillip Ervin each drove in two runs to lead the Dayton Dragons to a 5-3 victory over the West Michigan Whitecaps on Saturday night before a crowd of 9,088 at Fifth Third Field. With the win, the Dragons took two-out-of-three in the series and extended their lead to a full game over West Michigan in the wildcard race. Twenty-one games remain in the “first half” season.
The Dragons got off to an early lead, scoring three runs in the first inning. Jamodrick McGruder doubled to right-center field to start the inning, went to third on Jeff Gelalich’s sacrifice bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly to left field from Ervin to make it 1-0. After Sebastian Elizalde lined a double over the head of the right fielder, Buckley blasted a home run to left field to give the Dragons a 3-0 lead. It was Buckley’s first homer of the year and it came on the first pitch he saw after being activated from the disabled list earlier Saturday. Buckley had not played since April 28 due to a strained oblique.
“It felt great, but more importantly, it felt good just to be back in the lineup and be healthy,” said Buckley.
The Dragons added to their lead in the third inning when McGruder singled and then scored from first on a double to the left field corner by Ervin to make it 4-0.
West Michigan battled back in the sixth to make it a one-run game. Wynton Bernard reached on a throwing error by Dayton shortstop Carlton Daal to start the inning, and Javier Betancourt followed with a home run to left field to make it 4-2. Raph Rhymes then blasted another homer to left to pull the Whitecaps to within one at 4-3.
The Dragons got a run back in the bottom of the eighth, getting back-to-back singles by Gelalich and Ervin followed by a run-scoring line drive hit to right by Elizalde.
West Michigan got a lead-off single from Ben Verlander to start the ninth but Dragons closer Scott Brattvet got a double play from the next batter and worked a scoreless inning for his league-leading eighth save.
Dragons starting pitcher Ismael Guillon was outstanding over the first five innings before faltering in the sixth. He allowed no runs on three hits over the first five, but surrendered three runs in the sixth without getting an out in the inning. His final line featured five innings of work, five hits and three runs (two earned) with one walk and five strikeouts as he earned the win to improve to 3-0. Alejandro Chacin was outstanding in a set-up role, retiring eight of the nine batters he faced over two and two-thirds scoreless innings.
The Dragons collected eight hits. McGruder, Ervin, and Elizalde each had two.
The Dragons improved to 27-20 with the win while West Michigan fell to 27-22.
The Dragons travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana to take start a three-game series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Sunday night at 7:05 p.m. Amir Garrett (0-3, 4.81) will start for the Dragons against Fort Wayne’s Kyle Lloyd (1-1, 2.10). Other games in the series will start at 1:05 p.m. on Monday and 11:05 a.m. on Tuesday. The next Dragons home game is Saturday, May 31 vs. Lansing at 7:00 p.m.