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Dragons Fall, But Hold Wild Card Lead
DAYTON — Jason Leblebijian belted a tie-breaking home run with one out in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Lansing Lugnuts to a 3-2 victory over the Dayton Dragons. The Lugnuts battled back from a first inning 2-0 deficit to win the first game of the series.
Despite the loss, the Dragons held onto a one-half game lead in the wildcard race as Great Lakes also lost. However, the race became much tighter as Bowling Green won to pull to within one-half game of the Dragons, and Fort Wayne also won to get to within a full game of Dayton. Lansing is only two games behind the Dragons, meaning the five teams in the race are separated by two games and the top four teams are separated by one game.
The Dragons hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Alex Blandino hit his third home run of the year, and Robert Ramirez belted his fourth of the year. But the Dragons could not pick up another base hit the rest of the night.
Lansing scored one run in the second to pull to within one run at 2-1. Then in the seventh, the Lugnuts took advantage of two big defensive mistakes by the Dragons to tie the game. Dragons right fielder Jonathan Reynoso dropped a fly ball off the bat of Leblebijian with one out, and Leblebijian took second on the same play when Dragons relay man Ronald Bueno threw wildly into first base behind the runner. Daniel Klein’s single to right moved Leblebijian to third, and Dickie Joe Thon’s sacrifice fly tied the game.
The Dragons had a great chance to regain the lead in the eighth. Chad Tromp led off the inning with a fly ball to right field that was dropped by Derrick Loveless, allowing Tromp to get to second. But Bueno bunted back to the pitcher, who threw to third to get Tromp as Bueno reached first on the fielder’s choice. After Jon Matthews walked to move Bueno to second, Blandino and Ramirez both struck out to end the threat. The Dragons were retired in order in the bottom of the ninth.
Dragons starting pitcher Nick Howard worked five innings, allowing five hits and one run with two walks and five strikeouts. Reliever Zack Weiss (2-4) went the final four innings and was charged with a hard-luck loss. He allowed just two hits and two runs (one earned) with no walks and six strikeouts.
The Dragons (30-35) host the Lugnuts (27-38) again on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. in the second game of the series. Amir Garrett (7-7, 3.58) will start for the Dragons against Brent Powers (4-6, 5.53).
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