Dayton slugger Donald Lutz went on a tear after the All-Star break, leading the Dragons to the Midwest League's Eastern Division second-half crown. In the opening game of the first round of the playoffs, the first baseman remained hot.
Lutz went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs on Thursday to power Class A Dayton to a 7-3 win over the Lansing Lugnuts in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series.
"It was pretty big," said Lutz, selected in the second round of the 2009 Draft. "We got delayed yesterday because of the rain, so it's nice to get that first one out of the way. Now we're ready to roll."
After striking out in the second inning, Lutz plated Billy Hamilton with a two-out RBI single in the fourth, singled again in the sixth and smacked a two-run longball to right field in the eighth.
"[Dayton Marze] walked the guy in front of me [Kurtis Muller] on four pitches, so I was just looking for something to drive, something over the middle of the plate," Lutz said. "It was a first-pitch hanging slider and I was locked in. Sometimes you just have a feeling when you're seeing the ball so well."
The New York native hit .340 in 63 games after the All-Star break -- and a blistering .374 in August -- despite batting just .257 in the first 60 games of the season. Lutz's 51 RBIs in the second half were bested only by Beloit Snappers' infielder Jairo Perez, who recorded 53.
Largely in part to Lutz's contributions, the Cincinnati Reds' affiliate raced away to the division crown after the break, posting a 48-22 record and securing the best overall mark (83-57) in the league.
"We're all doing good. We improved as a team in the second half and it's been a lot of fun," he said. "Now we just have to keep doing what we're doing."
Hamilton was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and a run scored, Jefry Sierra went 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and a run and starting pitcher Daniel Corcino allowed two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six batters over six innings in the victory.
Game 2 of the best-of-3 series will take place in Lansing on Friday. The Lugnuts also would host Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday.
In other Midwest League playoff action:
River Bandits 5, LumberKings 3
Left fielder Colin Walsh went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and a run scored, and first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with an RBI double, a walk and two runs as Quad Cities swept its best-of-3 series with Clinton. Anthony Ferrera allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over six innings. Box score
Bees 5, Cougars 1
A.J Kirby-Jones went 3-for-4 with an RBI, and designated hitter Josh Whitaker scored two runs and drove home another to help Burlington send the series with Kane County to a winner-takes-all Game 3 on Friday. Quad Cities, the second-half Western Division champs, awaits the winner in the semifinals. Box score
TinCaps 6, Hot Rods 3
Mike Gallic homered, plated two runs and scored twice, right fielder Rymer Liriano was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and second baseman Cory Spangenberg added three hits and a run for Fort Wayne. The series moves to Bowling Green for Games 2 and 3, which are must-win games for the Hot Rods. Box score