The offensive fireworks and clutch play that had been so common for the Dragons the first half of the season but had been missing of late returned in an abundance during Wednesday night’s series opener against visiting Peoria.
That’s a good thing, because it temporarily offset the season-ending loss of a key member to that playoff-clinching success.
Seemingly ignited by the toss-out of manager Luis Bolivar in the third inning, the Dragons overcame a three-run deficit with a five-run sixth to overcome the Chiefs (Cardinals), 8-5. That was the opener of a three-game series and six straight home games at Fifth Third Field.
The win was sorely needed by Dayton, which hasn’t fully recovered from a midseason roster reboot and is 9-17 in the second half (49-46 overall).
Earlier in the day the team learned that Midwest League All-Star catcher Tyler Stephenson will be lost for the season following surgery to repair a fractured right thumb. He mangled the digit last Saturday on a double-steal attempt at Kane County while sliding and avoiding a tag at second base.
A first-round draft choice by the Reds in 2015, it’s the second straight year Stephenson has been hampered by injury. Last season he initially injured a wrist, suffered a concussion and was on the disabled list three times. Although he returned to the Dragons’ lineup each time in 2016, he was never the same, until this season.
“I feel for him,” Bolivar said. “He was having a good year. I was proud of him, as well, for all the improvement he made from last year. He was better in all aspects of the game. He showed that ability to control the pitching staff. He was blocking and framing well. Overall, he did a great job and I’m really proud of him. I can’t wait to see him reach the Major Leagues.”
Game changer: Trailing 3-2, Bolivar was tossed in the third inning. He immediately raced to the base umpire after a Peoria runner slid into third well after Dragons third baseman John Sansone had set up with a relay throw.
That was the fourth time Bolivar had been tossed in a game in as many seasons, the first three as the Dragons batting coach.
“I let (the ump) know there’s no way he could have missed that play,” Bolivar said. “That’s part of the game. I feel like I should stick up for the guys. I haven’t seen the replay, but I’m pretty sure he was out.”
Difference-makers: Sansone launched a two-run homer in the second inning, his 11th. Dragons first baseman Bruce Yari added a solo shot in the seventh. But it was streaking Jose Siri who provided the most drama.
He beat out a high-hopper to short in the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak to 25 games. That’s the most in the ML this decade (2010-17). The league record is 35, set in 1977. Siri also had a double and drew his greatest applause after getting into a pickoff rundown but scampering safely back to second base.
Siri, Yari and Sansone all had two hits and combined for five runs and five RBIs.
Dragons reliever Carlos Machoroo earned the win (2-1, 2.48 ERA). He went 2.1 innings following starter Andrew Jordon, who lasted just 3.2 innings and allowed five runs (three earned).
West Michigan at Dayton, 7 p.m.