GRAND CHUTE, WI - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are heading into the stretch of the first half of the Midwest League schedule on a three-game winning streak. Wisconsin beat the Cedar Rapids Kernels 7-4 on Thursday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Michael Ratterree homered and Angel Ortega had a pair of key RBI to spark the Rattlers to the win.
Wisconsin (28-31) took the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Francisco Castillo was at second and Paul Eshleman was at first. Ortega singled to right with two outs and Castillo was heading for the plate. The throw by Ryan Christensen was in time to get Castillo, but catcher Michael Quesada could not handle the throw. Castillo snuck around Christensen and scored the first run of the game.
Cedar Rapids (27-33) loaded the bases in the top of the third inning on singles by Bo Altobelli, Ryan Walker, and Engelb Vielma against Wisconsin starter Clint Terry. Christensen was up with one out and sent a flyball to right that was deep enough to score Altobelli from third. Walker tagged and headed for third and the throw came into Ortega as the cutoff man. Vielma tagged and took off for second and the Wisconsin shortstop thought he had tagged Vielma befor Altobelli scored. However, Vielma was ruled safe and the tying run counted. Plus, the Kernels had runners at second and third with two outs.
The next pitch from Terry was wild and that let Walker score to give the Kernels a 2-1 lead.
The Timber Rattlers trailed 2-1 until there were two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kernels starting pitcher Fernando Romero hadn't allowed a Rattler past second base since the second inning and retired eight of the ten batters he faced after the RBI single by Ortega. Ratterree sent a line drive to deep center, but it looked like centerfielder Jonathan Murphy would make a spectacular catch for the final out. Murphy raced back to the eight-foot high fence just to the right of the batter's eye, leapt, and…had the ball deflect off his glove and into the Kernels bullpen for a game-tying home run.
The homer was the eleventh of the season for Ratterree. That ties Ratterree with teammate Clint Coulter for the Midwest League lead in home runs.
Wisconsin busted the game open in the bottom of the sixth inning and it was the bottom part of the order that got the rally started against reliever Josue Montanez. Castillo was hit by a pitch with one out. Eshleman and Steve Halcomb both walked to load the bases. Ortega's infield single to the hole at short knocked Castillo home with the go-ahead run. Johnny Davis was next and he chopped a single over the head of the third baseman to drive in both Eshleman and Halcomb for a 5-2 lead. Montanez balked to get Ortega home. Then, Omar Garcia singled to right to and Davis raced home with the final run of the inning for a 7-2 lead.
Tyler Spurlin tossed a scoreless fifth to pick up the win. It was the first game for Spurlin since the second game of a doubleheader on April 30.
Barrett Astin pitched the final three innings and he earned his first professional save, despite allowing a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning.
The Timber Rattlers have won three straight games to claw their way back to the periphery of the first half Western Division Wild Card race. Wisconsin is three games under .500, but they trail the Peoria Chiefs, the current Wild Card leader in the West, by three games with ten games remaining in the half. However, the road to a playoff spot is difficult for the Rattlers. They do not play Peoria in any of the remaining games this half and there are currently three other teams between Wisconsin and the Chiefs. The Rattlers would have to climb over Clinton, Quad Cities, Burlington, and Peoria in the last ten days of the half to claim the Wild Card.
The final game of the series is Friday night. Zach Quintana (04, 6.09) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Ryan Eades (3-6, 5.66) is set to start for the Kernels. Game time is 7:05pm.
There will be a couple of special guests at the game on this North Shore Bank Family night with Y100. The Amazing Spider-Man and Captain America will be on hand to meet fans. The first 500 children ages 12 and under to attend this game will receive their very own superhero cape. All children 12 and under receive a free hot dog and soda as part of North Shore Bank Family night. There will be a postgame fireworks display. Kids 14 and under may participate in Kids Run the Bases thanks to Molina Healthcare after the fireworks.
If you can't make it out to the ballpark, there are several ways to catch the action. MyNEW 32's Sports Showdown will have the television broadcast starting at 7:00pm. The radio broadcast may be heard on AM1280, WNAM or IHeartRadio starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 6:45pm. The game is also available to those who subscribe to MiLB.TV.
Michael Ratterree (11th, 0 on in 5th inning off Fernando Romero, 2 out)
WP: Tyler Spurlin (1-0)
LP: Josue Montanez (1-4)
SAVE: Barrett Astin (1)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.