Patrick McGuff remembers a temptation from his days as a batter that he uses to his advantage as a pitcher.
“I was a hitter a long time ago,” he said, “but I still remember how good those high fastballs looked.”
When a pitcher consistently throws the fastball where he intends, he will have success. And McGuff is doing that for the Dayton Dragons in three starts since he joined the team on July 9 from the independent Frontier League. He was the bright spot Thursday night in the Dragons’ 12-0 loss to the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
McGuff (1-1) said his fastball location on the inside and outside parts of the plate and at the top of the strike zone or just above it have been important to his success with the Dragons. His favorite pitch might be getting batters to swing and miss at the high fastballs.
“It’s something that I’ve done and I take a little pride in,” he said. “I try to not waste pitches. I think a chest-high fastball is a more swingable pitch than an eye-high fastball.”
McGuff, 24, was in a pitchers’ duel with 18-year-old Luis Patino through four five innings. Entering the fifth, McGuff had run his scoreless inning streak to 14 since joining the Dragons. The TinCaps got an unearned run to take a 1-0 lead. McGuff’s pitch count was under 80 so he came out for the sixth inning for the first time as a Dragon.
After a leadoff double and two perfectly placed bunts made the score 2-0, McGuff was relieved by Miguel Aguilar. After a walk and groundout made it 3-0, it all fell apart for Aguilar. He allowed a two-run single, a three-run homer and two one-run singles to give the TinCaps a 10-0 lead. Three TinCaps had two hits in the inning.
McGuff allowed three earned runs on five hits and struck out three. His ERA is 1.80.
“He can compete out there, throw strikes, attack the hitters and mix his pitches well,” Dragons manager Luis Bolivar said. “It seems like he knows how to pitch.”
The lopsided loss ended the Dragons’ two-game winning streak and came on the heels of a 3-3 road trip. The road trip had a team feeling good that is 17-31 on the road this season but 8-8 in the second half. The Dragons entered the game in third place the Midwest League Eastern Division and holding down what would be the second half’s second playoff spot.
The loss dropped the Dragons (15-17) a half-game behind Fort Wayne and Lake County (both 15-16), which are now tied for third. South Bend is 17-15 in second place behind first-half champion Bowling Green. If the Dragons can keep getting the much better pitching they have been getting in the second half and the offense heats up, they could stay in contention for one of the two playoff spots that are available.
“I know at some point the guys are going to get hot and they’re going to get a good winning streak,” Bolivar said.
• Reds No. 2 prospect Hunter Greene will start for the Dragons on Thursday night against Fort Wayne. Greene is 3-7 with 4.61 ERA. In his last 10 games, Greene is 3-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings.