Print  Print © 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

Mehring's Rattler Playoff Memories : Tough Losses
10/02/2007 12:50 PM ET
New Page 1

The Major League Baseball playoffs officially start today.  To tie in with that month of excitement, there will be a look back at Timber Rattler playoff games since 2000.  Why 2000?  That's when I started with the team.  There are a few inquiries out there to track down information about the playoff games from 1996 through 1999.  I was at the game in which Juan Silvestre hit the game winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning against Lansing in 1999.  But, I can't find my scorecard and I would like to be somewhat accurate.  That is all for later in the off-season.

Since 2000, the Timber Rattlers have played 22 playoff games and their record is 11-11.  This week is a brief look back at the five hardest losses by the Rattlers in those 22 games.  Starting Thursday, there is a countdown of the top nine post-season victories that I have had the privilege to broadcast.  But, let's get the negativity out of the way first.

#5) 9/5/2000 Game One First Round @ Kane County :  This was the first playoff game I had a chance to call for the Rattlers.  It's also the only time the Rattlers have been "walked-off" in a playoff game since 2000.

Wisconsin did not score after loading the bases with two outs in the top of the first.  The Cougars took the lead in the bottom of the first.  Rafael Soriano was the starter for the Rattlers and he walked Chip Ambres to start the inning.  A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch moved Ambres to third.  Dave Callahan's sacrifice fly made it 1-0.

The score remained 1-0 until the top of the eighth inning.  Wisconsin catcher Damien Alvarado started things with a single.  He made it to second on a grounder to short.  Brandon Bowe entered the game as the third Kane County reliever and he would walk Justin Leone and give up a single to Chris Snelling to load the bases.  Bowe left and Bryan Moore took over on the hill to face Ryan Christianson.

The Rattler designated hitter's sacrifice fly to center was deep enough to score Alvarado with the tying run.  A single by Orlando Hernandez reloaded the bases, but Moore got out of it.

Rattler reliever Erik Grunwald, who had worked a scoreless bottom of the ninth, gave up a leadoff double to Matt Frick in the tenth.  After an intentional walk, Francisco Ferrand doubled in Frick with the game winner for a 2-1 final.  That was a long ride home to Appleton .

#4) 9/4/2003 Game Two First Round vs. Beloit :  Here is a haiku to let you know what the Rattlers were up against in this game.

Gwynn, Fielder, and Weeks

Three, four, and five in order

For Beloit Snappers

Beloit had beaten Bobby Livingston at Pohlman Field the night before.  The Rattlers needed to win this game to extend their season.  But, here is how the top of the first inning of Game Two went against Rattler starter TA Fulmer:

Kennard Bibbs walks to start the game. Sacrifice bunt by Callix Crabbe.  Anthony Gwynn singles and an error by left fielder Carlos Arroyo allows Bibbs to score while Gwynn goes to second.  Prince Fielder launches an 0-1 pitch for a two-run homer and a 3-0 Beloit lead.  Rickie Weeks walks.  Travis Hinton singles to left and Arroyo misplayed it for another error to allow Weeks to score from first. 

The Rattlers were down 4-0 before most of the fans had even had a chance to settle into their seats.

Beloit eventually stretched the lead out to 11-1, including five runs in the top of the ninth.  The Rattlers put five runs on the board in the bottom of the ninth - three on a homer by Jon Nelson - but that only made the final score of 11-6 look a bit more respectable.

How did that trio of future Brewers do in the game?  Gwynn: 3-for-4 with three runs and two RBI; Fielder: 2-for-5 with a run and three RBI; Weeks: 1-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.

Why is this on the list?  It wasn't a close loss.  There were no late-game heroics.  There are a couple of factors.  First, the crowd was over 2,000.  That is rare for a playoff game.  But, they did not have much to cheer.  Second, if the Rattlers had won this game to force game three the starting pitcher for Wisconsin would have been Felix Hernandez.  Maybe you've heard of him.  How much fun would it have been to see Hernandez take on Gwynn, Fielder, and Weeks in a decisive Game Three?

#3) 9/7/2001 Game One Western Division Championship @Kane County:  Wisconsin was on a roll.  They had finished the second half of the season with a 42-26 record and swept the Quad City River Bandits out of the first round.  After a day off, the Rattlers welcomed the Kane County Cougars to town.  The Cougars had a lineup that included Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Wilson, and Josh Willingham as position players.  The Rattlers sent Derrick Van Dusen to the mound for the start.  This was the second start for Van Dusen since he tossed his no-hitter at Cedar Rapids late in the season.

The Cougars loaded the bases with one out against Van Dusen in the first inning, but he got Cabrera to ground into a double play.  In the top of the second, Van Dusen retired the first two batters, but allowed two straight two-out singles.  That brought Wilson to the plate and he singled on an 0-2 pitch to drive in the first run of the game.

There was a slight rain falling during the game and it got heavier as the game continued.  In the worsening weather conditions, Wilson hit a leadoff homer off Van Dusen in the top of the fifth for a 2-0 lead.  After a walk and a grounder, the umpires had seen enough and called for the tarp to be placed on the field at 7:54pm.

That rain delay lasted three hours and twenty-seven minutes.  When play resumed at 11:21pm the Cougars could do nothing against four Timber Rattler relievers.  But, the Rattlers did not have a real threat until the bottom of the eighth.

Corey Freeman and Sheldon Fulse started the frame with back-to-back walks.  Eudy Lajara, the third Cougar pitcher, struck out the next two batters and gave way to Mike Flannery.  John Castellano welcomed Flannery to the game with an RBI single.  But, Flannery got the final out of the eighth and worked a 1-2-3 ninth to finish off the Rattlers at 1:01am on September 8 in a 2-1 Kane County win.

#2) Game Two 2000 Western Division Championship vs. Beloit :  I have always hated looking back at this game.  This is one of those games where you just wind up thinking, "What might have been..."

Wisconsin starting pitcher Matt Thornton allowed one run in the top of the fifth inning in an unusual manner to give the Snappers a 1-0 lead.  Nick Frank struck out with two outs and nobody on base.  But, Frank reached on a wild pitch.  Then, with Erickson de la Cruz at the plate, he took second on a wild pitch.  Frank went to third on another wild pitch.  Ball four to de la Cruz was the fourth wild pitch of the at bat and Frank scored.  

Wisconsin answered in the bottom of the fifth with help from Snapper pitcher Kevin Shrout.  Orlando Hernandez walked on four pitches and Sheldon Fulse dropped a sacrifice bunt.  Shrout's only play was to first, but he threw the ball into right field.  Hernandez tried to score from first and a wild relay throw from second baseman Steve Scarbourough let not only Hernandez, but also Fulse to score for a 2-1 lead.  Two outs later, Justin Leone walked and Gorky Estrella homered for a 4-1 lead and the MWL championship series was 12 outs away.

Thornton walked the leadoff batter in the sixth and got the first out before turning the ball over to Juan Ramos for his first post-season appearance in 2000.  Ramos got a 1-6-3 double play and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.  Then, the eighth inning happened.

Frank singled and de la Cruz doubled to put runners on second and third.  Ramos got the first out on a grounder that kept the base runners where they were.  Scarbourough made up for his error in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-2.  So, with two outs what could possibly go wrong with a two run lead with four outs to go in the game?

Ramos hit Kade Johnson to put runners at first and second.

Chad Wiles, who had helped Seattle's Arizona League affiliate win a championship days earlier, relieved Ramos and got Eliezer Alfonzo to pop up to second baseman Oscar Ramirez.  But, Ramirez misjudged the ball and it dropped off his glove.  Instead of the end of the inning, de la Cruz scored from second and Bill Hall stepped to the plate with Johnson as the tying run in scoring position.  Hall delivered a single and the game was tied.  Cristian Guererro was next and he singled to load the bases.  Hector Garcia followed with a two run single and the Snappers had a 6-4 lead.  Wiles did not retire a batter in this outing.  Erik Grunwald had to come in to get Frank for the final out of the inning.

The Rattlers put two runners on with two out in the eighth, but Gene Altman got the out.

The bottom of the ninth inning was down to the wire.  Estralla walked with one out.  Ruben Castillo pinch ran and stole second.  Here is where my scorebook is a little tough to understand.  Ryan Christianson singled and that should have put runners at first and third.  Altman got the second out on a flyball to center that wasn't deep enough to score Castillo from third.  Then, pinch-hitter Ariel Durango was next and he singled, but Castilo didn't score on that play.  So, either Castillo didn't go to third on the single by Christianson or didn't score from third on the single by Durango .

In the end, it's bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.  Orlando Hernandez had a chance to tie the game with a single or win it and send the Snappers home for the year with an extra base hit.  He fouled out to first to end the game.

Wisconsin 's season ended the next day after a 12-5 loss to the Snappers and it would be another five years before the Rattlers got to the Midwest League Championship series.

#1) 9/17/2005 Game Five Midwest League Championship vs. South Bend:  The Rattlers lost the first two games at South Bend, but rallied to win the next two games at home to force this Saturday afternoon game to decide the 2005 Midwest League Champion.

Cibney Bello got the start for the Timber Rattlers against Steven Jackson for the Silver Hawks and they kept tossing zeroes as the game was scoreless through six innings.  Bello allowed two hits and struck out eight in the first six innings.  Jackson allowed three hits and struck out six in his first six.

Carlos Gonzales started the top of the seventh inning with a bunt single that caught everyone by surprise.  Gonzales, the number three hitter in the South Bend lineup, had 18 homers and 92 RBI during the regular season.  This bunt seemed to throw Bello off his rhythm.  He fell behind Cesar Nicolas 2-1 and the next pitch was drilled over the left field wall for a 2-0 Silver Hawk lead.  To exacerbate the situation, Agustin Murillo followed with another solo homer to make the score 3-0.

Jackson allowed a couple of harmless singles in his final two innings.  The Hawks added another run in the top of the ninth and the Rattlers went down in order in the bottom of the ninth.  South Bend celebrated and a great Wisconsin season ended in disappointment.

That's enough with the losses.  Starting Thursday, nothing but post season Rattler wins to remember.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.