Thick, juicy steaks were on the postgame menu Saturday night in the Dayton Dragons’ clubhouse. As good as that steak looked and smelled, Luis Bolivar would trade a good meal for a victory right now.
His team isn’t hitting and it isn’t winning.
“Just trying to figure out how to get the team going offensively,” Bolivar said as he sat at his desk waiting to devour that steak in the same way he wishes his lineup would start doing to opposing pitchers.
But the Dragons lost their seventh straight and third straight to the South Bend Cubs 5-2. Tyler Mondile kept the Dragons close, leaving down 3-1 in the sixth. Starting pitchers Andrew Jordan and Hunter Greene did the same thing for the Dragons in the series first two games, both 3-2 losses.
“They need to swing at better pitches and be ready to hit,” Bolivar said. “That’s what we’re looking for. They have to be more patient and actually drive the ball and not give too much credit to the pitchers.”
In the sixth inning, the moment for the big hit had finally arrived for the Dragons. Or so it seemed for a split-second.
The Dragons trailed 3-2 with runners on first and second when J.D. Williams hit a laser up the middle. But it glanced off the shoulder of the pitcher. The ball still had steam on it, but the shortstop ran it down behind second base, stepped on the bag and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
Another unfulfilled chance to score had taken the steam out of the Dragons, who are 2-14 since June 3. Their record has fallen from 29-26 to 31-40, and they are 0-3 to start the second half of the Midwest League’s split-season format.
“It’s tough for them,” Bolivar said. “I know they want to do their best. We’ve got to stay positive and keep working with them. And they’ve got to understand this is going to pass by.”
The numbers tell the story of the Dragons’ offensive struggles since the promotion to Daytona of outfielders Stuart Fairchild, Michael Beltre and Narciso Crook. Over the past 16 games, the Dragons are batting .218 and averaging 2.87 runs a game. The team ERA over this 2-14 stretch is 5.14, which isn’t great but is a little better than the season mark of 5.22.
“I’m going to keep talking to them and keep encouraging them that every night you have to have an approach and stick with it,” Bolivar said. “That’s the way you’re going to be consistent.”
The sixth wasn’t the only missed opportunity for the Dragons. They had two on the first when John Sansone hit into an inning-ending double play. In the second, Leandro Santana singled and moved to second on a wild pitch with two out. Jose Garcia hit a line drive that looked as if it would land in left-center and plate Santana. But shortstop Jhonny Bethencourt leaped high to catch the smash and end the inning.
On the positive side, second baseman Jeter Downs continued to show power with a solo homer in the third. It was his ninth and tied Hendrik Clementina for the team lead. And before the aforementioned double play in the sixth, Andy Sugilio doubled and scored on a single by Mark Kolozsvary. But two runs is all the Dragons have been able to score in the first three games of this series.
“Hitting is contagious,” Bolivar said. “As soon as a couple guys get hot, I’m pretty sure everybody else is going to follow.”