CLINTON, IA - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers emphatically ended their five-game losing streak with a 10-9 come-from-behind victory over the Clinton LumberKings Tuesday night at Ashford University Field. Sthervin Matos hit a grand slam and drove in six runs, including the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning to lead the Rattlers to the win and more breathing space in the playoff chase.
Clinton (56-69 overall, 26-31 second half) grabbed the lead in the first inning. Wisconsin starter Preston Gainey retired the first two batters he faced, but a single by Tyler O'Neill and back-to-back hit batsmen loaded the bases. Gainey got ahead of Christian Carmichael 0-2 and threw a pitch off the outside corner to the right-handed hitter. Carmichael chased the pitch and sent a grounder up the first base line. The ball hit the bag and deflected into right field for a two-out, two-run single to put the LumberKings in front.
Clint Coulter and Rafael Neda both singled to start the second inning for the Rattlers. Coulter took off for third and Matos squared to bunt an 0-1 pitch and was easily doubled off second when the bunt was popped up and caught by Clinton pitcher Eddie Campbell. Angel Ortega salvaged a run for the Rattlers with a double to left-center to drive in Neda from first base.
O'Neill gave Clinton a two-run cushion again with a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning.
The Rattlers (66-60,30-27) loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fourth inning. Michael Ratterree walked, Coulter's double play ball to short was missed for an error, and Neda was hit by a pitch. Shtervin Matos stepped up and cracked a grand slam to center and the Rattlers had a 5-3 lead. The homer was the first hit for Matos since he joined the Rattlers on Monday from Helena, the Pioneer League affiliate of the Brewers.
Gainey got the first two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Then, things went haywire.
Nelson Ward doubled, Luis Caballero reached on an infield single, and Aaron Barbosa reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Gainey looked like he had struck out Brett Thomas on a 1-2 pitch, but the offering was called a ball. Thomas followed with a line drive single to left that drove in two runs to tie the game 5-5.
O'Neill was next and he hit a high popup less than ten feet in front of the plate. Matos had to charge all the way down the line from his third base position because no one else saw the ball. Matos got a glove on the ball after a long run, but dropped it out of his glove for an error to let Barbosa score from second. The confusion of the popup led to no Rattler defender covering second. So O'Neill looked to take the extra base. Centerfielder Johnny Davis raced in to cover, but the throw from Matos sailed into an unoccupied centerfield. By the time anyone could get to the ball, both Thomas and O'Neill scored to put the LumberKings up 8-5.
The Rattler bats responded in the top of the fifth. Chris McFarland was hit by a pitch and Ratterree singled. Neda delivered a one-out single that scored McFarland and got Ratterree to third. Matos knocked in Ratterree with a slow grounder to second. Neda came home when Ortega's grounder to third was misplayed for an error and the game was tied 8-8.
An error would cost the Rattlers in the bottom of the seventh inning. Reliever Luke Curtis walked Justin Seager to start the inning and Joe DeCarlo followed with a single. Carmichael bunted back to the mound on a sacrifice attempt and it was bobbled for an error to load the bases. Curtis would got the first out on a strikeout, but a fly ball to left off the bat of Ward was deep enough to drive in Seager with the go ahead run.
Wisconsin had one more comeback left in them. Ratterree drew a walk with one out against Clinton closer Emilio Pagan. Coulter singled to left and the ball was misplayed for an error to allow Ratterree to take third and Coulter to take second. Neda sent a line drive to right field that was caught by Thomas. It was just deep enough as Ratterree scored from third just ahead of the throw to tie the game. Coulter would take third on the throw to the plate.
Matos put the Rattlers in front with a sharp single through the left side of the infield on the first pitch he saw in the ninth.
Harvey Martin, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, went back out for the ninth and retired the first two batters he faced. Ward's flyball to right-center was dropped for an error and Ward wound up at second base with the tying run and two outs. Martin regrouped and struck out Caballero to end the game and the losing streak.
The grand slam by Matos was the sixth of the season for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Coulter and Tyler Brennan each have two. Ratterree has the other slam by a Rattler in 2014.
Wisconsin picked up ground on the three teams closest to them in the second half Western Division Wild Card chase. Peoria lost their sixth straight game and Quad Cities also lost on Tuesday night. The Rattlers now have a three game lead on Peoria and a four game lead on both Quad Cities and Clinton. There are thirteen games remaining in the regular season.
Game three of the series is Wednesday night at 6:30pm. Javier Salas (0-1, 3.60) is the scheduled starter for the Timber Rattlers. Jose Flores (3-4, 4.42) is set to start for the LumberKings. Tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or IHeartRadio starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 6:10pm.
Sthervin Matos (1st, GRAND SLAM in 4th inning off Eddie Campbell, 0 out)
Tyler O'Neill (13th, 0 on in 3rd inning off Preston Gainey, 1 out)
WP: Harvey Martin (5-5)
LP: Emilio Pagan (2-3)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.