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Lost Play Ball! 2005 Timber Rattlers: The Almost Champions

Revisiting the 2005 Timber Rattlers
August 19, 2020

The 2020 Play Ball! was just about ready to go to print when everything went haywire. We never got a chance to print it. We did have the articles finished and wanted to share them with you. This is our last "Lost" Play Ball!_ article from 2020 and it looks

The 2020 Play Ball! was just about ready to go to print when everything went haywire. We never got a chance to print it. We did have the articles finished and wanted to share them with you. This is our last "Lost" _Play Ball! article from 2020 and it looks back fifteen years at the 2005 Timber Rattlers team that made it all the way to Game Five of the Midwest League Championship Series before falling to the South Bend Silver Hawks. This was a fun team with a lot of future Major Leaguers and it is worth the trip back down memory lane.

In 2005, one of the best Wisconsin Timber Rattlers teams had one of the most exciting playoff runs in the history of the club. That team fell just a little short of the Midwest League Championship, but we look back at that group from fifteen years ago with fondness.

There was plenty of talent on that roster. Seven future Major League players, including 2019 World Series champion Asdrubal Cabrera, were with the team on the Opening Day. Cabrera would be promoted after the 2005 MWL All-Star Game, but the other six future MLB players – Matt Tuiasosopo, Rob Johnson, Mike Wilson, Oswaldo Navarro, Mark Lowe, and Eric O’Flaherty – would stick around for the entire season.

Heading into a seven-game road trip to end the first half, the Timber Rattlers found themselves tied with Clinton for first place in the Western Division as both teams had identical 35-28 records. As luck would have it, the first three games of that road trip were at Clinton.

The teams split the first two contests and in the all-important third meeting, the Rattlers won going away. Cabrera hit a three-run homer as the third batter of the first inning and the Rattlers had a 4-0 lead by the time the frame was done. Wisconsin poured on seven more runs in the second for an 11-0 lead and they went on to a 17-5 win.

The team closed out the first half with an emphatic 13-5 win at Beloit behind a 5-for-5 game with two homers from Marshall Hubbard and the Rattlers were 39-31 to edge the LumberKings by one game for the First-Half Western Division title.

The second half saw the Rattlers pick up an eighth future MLBer when the Seattle Mariners sent #3 overall pick Jeff Clement of the University of Southern California to Wisconsin. Clement had an OPS of .908 with six homers and 20 RBI in 30 games with the Rattlers and helped the team finish the second half with a 37-32 record, the best in the Western Division.

Wisconsin found their backs to the wall right away in the postseason after the Snappers beat Wisconsin 5-0 and held the Rattlers to one hit, a one-out double in the eighth inning by Tuiasosopo. The Rattlers rebounded with a 9-1 win in game two at home to set up a decisive third game.

Game Three was tied 2-2 until the bottom of the tenth inning when Wilson crushed a two-run, walkoff home run over the scoreboard in left-center to send the Rattlers on to the Western Finals against the LumberKings.

Game One of the next series was at Clinton and the Rattlers trailed 7-1 after five innings. Clement started the comeback with a two-run homer in the sixth. Clement capped a three-run eighth inning with a two-run single and Wisconsin trailed 7-6. Chris Colton tied the game with a lead-off home run in the ninth inning. Then, Clement lined another home run in the top of the tenth and the Rattlers had an 8-7 lead.

Unheralded Justin Jordan went back out for the bottom of the tenth and retired the LumberKings in order to finish his 3-2/3 scoreless innings of relief and close out the game. The Rattlers closed out the series with a 16-0 win at home the next night to head to the Championship Series against the South Bend Silver Hawks.

South Bend jumped on the Rattlers in South Bend by winning the first two games of the best-of-five series. The Rattlers stayed alive as they returned home with an 1-0 in Game Three when they scored a run on a two-out bases-loaded walk to Colton in the bottom of the eighth and forced Game Five with an 11-6 win in Game Four.

Game Five was scoreless late. However, the Rattlers run came to an end when Cesar Nicolas hit a two-run home run in the seventh and Agustin Murillo followed with a solo homer. The Silver Hawks added one more run in the top of the ninth inning and the Rattlers went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-0 loss to end their season.

The 2005 Timber Rattlers came so close and we can’t help but look back fifteen years later at what might have been.