Grand Rapids, Mich.—Dayton starting pitcher Tony Santillan and relievers Andy Cox and Ryan Hendrix combined to scatter nine hits as the Dragons defeated the West Michigan Whitecaps 4-3 on Fridaynight. With the victory, the Dragons not only pulled to within two games of the first place Whitecaps, but they also gained a game on the South Bend Cubs. The Dragons (37-23) took a one game lead on the Cubs for the wildcard slot in the Midwest League East Division with 10 games to play in the first half. The top two teams in the East Division first half standings will earn playoff spots.
The Dragons trailed 3-2 before scoring two runs in the sixth inning to take the lead. They loaded the bases with two outs when Tyler Stephenson hit a hard bouncer that appeared to be headed for right field. West Michigan second baseman Anthony Pereira made a spectacular play to his left to field the ball, but his awkward, quick throw to first base was off target and flew past the first baseman, allowing two runs to score to give the Dragons the lead.
Santillan left the game in the bottom of the seventh with one out and a runner at first base, still leading 4-3. Andy Cox replaced him and struck out both batters he faced to end the inning. Cox then pitched a scoreless eighth inning before Hendrix pitched a perfect ninth for his third save. Cox has now enjoyed 13 straight scoreless relief appearances to lower his earned run average to 1.71.
The Dragons took advantage of five West Michigan errors and eight walks. Dayton took a 1-0 lead in the second inning before the Whitecaps tied the game in the third. West Michigan jumped ahead 3-1 in the fourth on Pereira’s two-run home run. The Dragons cut the deficit to 3-2 in fifth on an RBI groundout by John Sansone.
Santillan (4-2) earned the win, going six and one-third innings and allowing three runs on eight hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
All six Dayton hits were singles. T.J. Friedl had one hit to extend his hitting streak to eight straight games. Cassidy Brown had a hit to push his hitting streak to five straight.
Up Next: The Dragons battle the Whitecaps in the second game of the series on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Midwest League All-Star Scott Moss (8-1, 2.14) will start for the Dragons against West Michigan’sEudis Idrogo (2-2, 3.16).
The Dragons have four home games left in the first half, all against the Great Lakes Loons. They will host the Loons in a doubleheader on Tuesday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m. and they meet the Loons again at7:00 p.m. on June 14 and 15.