Schizophrenic had been the word to describe the Dayton Dragons. Since then, they have always been a pitching mistake or a booted grounder away from victory.
But the Dragons have been winning their battles against the baseball gods over the last week, winning five of their last six, including a 6-4 win over West Michigan on Wednesday night at Fifth Third Field. Dayton has moved from the bottom of the standings to sixth, a small step to correcting a rough start to the season, thanks to timely hitting, better defense and steadier pitching.
Dayton trailed 4-2 but scored twice in the seventh and twice in the eighth to take the lead. Joe Terry reached on a single in the eighth, then hot-hitting Jesse Winker took a Josh Turley breaking pitch over the right-field wall to give Dayton the lead and the win.
“Last homestand, they brought in the same lefty,” Winker said. “He has a good curveball and a good change-up. He got ahead early and I knew he would go to one of those good pitches of his and I was able to put my swing on it.”
After a slow start, Winker is hitting .378 over his last 28 games with six home runs, six doubles and a triple. Over the last week he has batted .375 with three home runs and 10 RBIs and was named Midwest League hitter of the week.
It’s good news for the lefty, who was a supplemental first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 and is the top-ranked corner outfielder in the farm system according to Baseball America.
“I started slow, but it was getting back to basics,” Winker said. “Just come to the yard and go through your routine and put together good at-bats.”
The victory comes after Dayton visited division-leading South Bend last weekend and won four out of five, including a sweep of a Saturday double-header. It was the first road series win of the year for Dayton, which has searched for a break since the beginning of the season.
“Coming back with those four games and getting that winning feeling lifted our spirits,” Dayton manager Jose Nieves said. “It helped our own kids understand that they are good. They made adjustments and did what they had to. We want to do that on a daily basis and finish strong the first half of the season.”
Reliever Joe Housey won his first game as a Dragon, pitching a perfect eighth in relief. Seth Mejias-Brean was 2-for-4. Tanner Rahier gave Dayton an early lead with a two-run double in the second.
Winker hopes the baseball gods keep smiling on the Dragons.
“Our pitching has been great and we are swinging the bat well top to bottom,” Winker said. “We’ve had timely hitting and it has all made a big difference.”
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