DAYTON, Ohio – The Lake County Captains scored four runs in the fourth inning and held off the Dayton Dragons 4-3 on Friday night. The Dayton loss coupled with a win by the Great Lakes Loons eliminated the Dragons from first half playoff contention. The Dragons now trail the Loons by two games with two to play, but the Dragons would lose the tie-breaker.
The game featured an unexpected start by former Dragons pitcher Josh Smith, most recently with the Reds Triple-A club, the Louisville Bats. Smith set the Dragons single-season strikeout record and was a Midwest League all-star in 2011. The Louisville club began a road trip to Rochester on Friday, but Smith, a candidate for a promotion to fill a vacancy in the Reds starting rotation, was sent to Dayton instead. He fired one perfect inning for the Dragons on Friday as the starting pitcher, notching a strikeout.
The Dragons jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. In the first inning, Brian O’Grady delivered a one-out single to bring in Ronald Bueno from third to get the scoring started. In the third, Gavin LaValley singled with one out to score Bueno from third to give the Dragons a 2-0.
But Lake County took the lead for good in the fourth. Claudio Bautista hit a home run to start the inning and Yonathan Mendoza added a run-scoring single to tie the game. With two outs and runners at second and third, Ordomar Valdez hit a hard one-hop liner that Dayton shortstop Luis Gonzalez fielded with an outstanding pick-up, but Gonzalez made a bad throw to first that skipped to the fence and allowed two runs to score, making it 4-2.
The Dragons got back to within one run in the fifth when O’Grady tripled to right field to drive in LaValley from first with two outs, but the Lake County bullpen shut down the Dragons the rest of the night. The Dragons had seven at-bats with runners in scoring position after pulling to within a run at 4-3, but they went 0 for 7.
The loss was charged to Tyler Mahle (6-5), who replaced Smith to start the second inning. Mahle went six innings in relief, allowing six hits and four runs (two earned) with no walks and six strikeouts.
The Dragons finished with 10 hits. O’Grady was 2 for 5 with two runs batted in to extend his hitting streak to 10 straight games. Bueno and Avain Rachal also had two hits for Dayton.
The Dragons (37-31) battle Lake County (36-30) on Saturday night at 7:05. Wyatt Strahan (5-4, 3.18) will start for the Dragons against Lake County’s Sean Brady (5-3, 2.88). The series will conclude on Sunday. Saturday’s game will be televised on WHIO Digital Channel 7.2 (Time Warner Cable channels 23 and 372).
Notes: The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Dragons…The Dragons are 26-9 in games when they allowed no unearned runs, but 5-17 when allowed two or more unearned runs. They allowed two on Friday…The Dragons had two errors in the fourth inning after playing a three-game series in South Bend without an error.