CLINTON, IA - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers did not take the easy route to their sixth straight victory as they trailed the Clinton LumberKings 5-0 after four innings at Ashford University Field in game two of Sunday's doubleheader. The Rattlers scored six times in the top of the fifth and pulled away for an 8-5 win.
Clinton (29-32) grabbed the early lead in game two with four runs in the bottom of the first inning off Wisconsin starter Victor Diaz. Zach Shank walked and went to third on a single by Marcus Littlewood. Jack Reinheimer was next and he sent a grounder to third. The Rattlers got the out at second, but Reinheimer just beat the throw to first base for a run scoring fielder's choice and a 1-0 lead.
Austin Wilson walked to put two runners on base and the Rattlers could only get an out at first on a sharp grounder to first by Jeff Zimmerman. Kyle Seager lined the next pitch off the wall in right for a two-run double. Corey Simpson followed with a bloop single to right to score Seager and give the LumberKings a 4-0 lead.
Wisconsin (31-31) struggled to get anything off Clinton starting pitcher Seon-Gi Kim. Omar Garcia extended his hitting streak to eight games with a one out single in the top of the first inning, but was caught stealing 1-3-6 to end the first. Kim didn't allow another base runner over his four innings of work.
The LumberKings added another two-out run in the bottom of the fourth. Diaz retired the first two batters of the inning, but gave up a single to Shank and walks to the next two batters. Tyler Spurlin took over for Diaz and uncorked a wild pitch on the his first pitch of the game. That wild pitch let Shank score and the LumberKings were up 5-0.
Kim, who had four relief appearances this season for the Lumberkings and was making a spot start on Sunday, left after the fourth inning. The Clinton bullpen squandered the five run lead and then some.
Francisco Castillo started the fifth inning with a single against Thyago Vieira. Taylor Brennan and Rafael Neda drew walks to load the bases. Steve Halcomb grounded out to third and the LumberKings defense went for the force play at the plate. Vieira threw a wild pitch with Paul Eshleman at the plate to allow Brennan to score. Eshleman would draw a walk to reload the bases.
Angel Ortega lined the next pitch to left-center for a double that scored two runs and cut Clinton's lead to two runs. The double by Ortega extended his hitting streak to seven games and drove Vieira out of the game.
Clinton left-handed reliever Nick Valenza got into the game and was quickly ahead of Johnny Davis 0-2. Davis fouled the first 0-2 pitch off to keep his at bat alive. He lined the next pitch down the line in right to drive in both Eshleman and Ortega with a game-tying triple.
Garcia came to the plate with the infield drawn in to cut down Davis at the plate. But, Garcia foiled that strategy by lining a single through the left side of the infield to knock in Garcia with the run to put the Rattlers up 6-5.
Wisconsin added to their lead in the top of the sixth inning on an unearned run. Castillo reached second on an error to start the inning. The bases were loaded up as Brennan walked and Neda reached on a bunt single. Halcomb got Castillo home with a sacrifice fly for a 7-5 lead.
Spurlin would work a 1-2-3 fifth and a perfect sixth inning to keep the Rattlers in front once they had the lead.
The Timber Rattlers tacked on another unearned run in the top of the seventh. Davis reached second on an error to start the inning and was bunted to third. Castillo knocked in Davis with a two-out single for an 8-5 lead.
Rodolfo Fernandez came on in the seventh inning and got the first out. But, the tying run would come to the plate after a double and a walk. Fernandez closed out the game - and the doubleheader sweep - with a strikeout and a grounder to short.
There was a lot of movement in the Midwest League's Western Division Wild Card race on Sunday. The Burlington Bees swept a pair of games from the Beloit Snappers and the Quad Cities River Bandits swept two games from the Peoria Chiefs. Peoria fell from the lead into third place Wild Card race. Quad Cities jumped to a one game lead over the Chiefs and Burlington is just a half game behind the River Bandits. Quad Cities will host the Chiefs on Monday night. Burlington has a doubleheader at home against Beloit.
Wisconsin has reached the .500 mark for the first time since they were 10-10 on April 25. They are now 31-31 and trail the River Bandits by two games with seven games left in the first half.
The Timber Rattlers conclude their brief series in Clinton on Monday night. Taylor Williams (3-1, 3.42) is the scheduled starting pitcher for Wisconsin. Carlos Misell (6-4, 3.67) is set to start for the LumberKings. Game time is 6:30pm. Tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or IHeartRadio.com starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 6:10pm.
WP: Tyler Spurlin (2-0)
LP: Nick Valenza (0-1)
SAVE: Rodolfo Fernandez (2)