With both teams trailing the West Michigan Whitecaps by a narrow margin in the Midwest League Eastern Division standings, the South Bend Cubs and Dayton Dragons got together in Dayton for a crucial three-game set.
The Cubs emerged as the series winner with a pair of victories, and while the Dragons remain in second place in the division, the Cubs are now a single game behind them with 10 straight games against sub-.500 competition on the horizon.
Cubs outfielder Luis Ayala was absolutely on fire, with six hits, six RBI and four runs scored. Third baseman Vimael Machin also chipped in five hits and four RBI, and outfielder Roberto Caro had five hits, a double and a triple.
GAME 1: Cubs 9, Dragons 2
This one started off as a pitcher’s duel, with the Dragons carrying a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth inning. Three singles and an error later, the Cubs had seized a 3-2 lead. At that point, the flood gates opened up, and South Bend tacked on six consecutive hits and sac fly to score five more runs and bury Dayton under a 9-2 deficit.
Cubs reliever Tyson Miller (3-4) yielded both of Dayton’s runs in four innings of work, but was bailed out by his offense to pick up the win. Ayala homered, and Machin came up twice in the ninth-inning explosion and picked up a hit each time.
Dayton seemed to have just enough offense thanks to a two-run homer by first baseman James Vazquez, but the Dragons were sabotaged when reliever Jesse Stallings (1-2) gave up seven runs without recording a single out.
GAME 2: Dragons 9, Cubs 8
South Bend brought the bats out for a second consecutive night in this one, but this time Dayton did just a little bit more.
Left fielder Taylor Trammell smashed an RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh to score what proved to be the go-ahead run, and center fielder Jose Siri posted three RBI off of a homer and a triple to give the Dragons the upper hand in a real fireworks display of a game. Reliever Andy Cox (3-1) pitched 1 1/3 scorless innings as he and two other Dayton relievers threw the brakes on the South Bend offense.
The Cubs got three RBI from Machin, and two apiece from Ayala and third baseman Wladimir Galindo, but starter Jose Paulino (2-1) got hung with the loss after giving up six runs in only 2 2/3 innings.
GAME 3: Cubs 5, Dragons 4
The first game of this series was so nice, the Cubs did it twice. With the Dragons up 4-2 in the top of the ninth, the Cubs dropped three runs on Dayton reliever Joel Kuhnel (0-3), with the game-tying and go-ahead runs both coming from a line drive single by Ayala. Trammell notched three more hits and catcher Cassidy Brown homered for Dayton in the losing effort.
Caro chipped in a pair of RBI and both of his extra base hits to aid the Cubs, and reliever Tyler Peyton (2-0) got a win under the same circumstances as Miller before him; that is, thanks to his hitters and in spite of giving up two runs.
Having improved their record to 33-20 for the year, the Cubs now sit three games back of the West Michigan Whitecaps in the Eastern Division. Their road trip continues this weekend in the Cleveland metro area against the Lake County Captains, who are only a game ahead of the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the “battle” for the league’s worst record.