The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers aren’t going anywhere yet. The Rattlers beat the Western Division-leading South Bend Cubs 5-2 on Thursday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium to creep just a little bit closer in the playoff race with a month to go in the regular season. Carlos Rodríguez picked up the win in his first home start for the Rattlers with six solid innings.
A lead-off walk came back to haunt Rodríguez in the top of the fourth inning. The free pass was given to Luis Verdugo. Pablo Aliendo found the gap in right-center with one out for a triple to send Verdugo home with the first run of the game.
Jeferson Quero singled to start the bottom of the fourth inning for Wisconsin’s first hit off South Bend starting pitcher Luis Devers. Then, Devers hit Joe Gray Jr and gave up a single to Ben Metzinger to load the bases with no outs. Jose Acosta sent a fly ball to foul territory in left that was caught for the first out of the inning, but Quero was able to tag and score the tying run.
The Timber Rattlers (56-48 overall, 20-19 second half) took the lead in the bottom of the sixth against Cubs reliever Jarrod Wright. Gray singled with one out and Metzinger followed with a double to right to put runners on second and third. Wright got the second out but threw a wild pitch to let Gray score before he could record the final out.
Wisconsin added to their lead in the seventh inning with two more runs on sacrifice flies. Reidy Mercado started the rally with a bunt single and Miller followed with a double to put runners on second and third. Jackson Chourio knocked in Mercado and moved Miller to third with a deep fly to center. Then, Zavier Warren lined out to deep left to score Miller for a 4-1 lead.
In the eighth, Wisconsin tacked on a run with a two-out rally. Acosta dropped in a bloop single to left. Then, Piñero doubled to the wall in left-center to score Acosta for a 5-1 advantage.
Taylor Floyd, who relieved Rodríguez to start the seventh inning and had allowed one hit over his first two innings, went back out for the ninth and walked the first two batters he faced. James Meeker was called into the game and allowed an infield single to load the bases. Jonathan Sierra followed with a broken-bat single to score a run to make the score 5-2. That put the tying run on base and brought the lead run to the plate for South Bend (58-47, 24-15).
Meeker got the first out on a force out at the plate. However, that brought Pete Crow-Armstrong, the #4 prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization, to the plate.
Crow-Armstrong and Meeker battled to a full count before Meeker got a swing and miss for strike three on the ninth pitch of the at bat. Meeker closed out the game for his tenth save by striking out Fabian Pertuz on a 3-2 pitch.
The Beloit Sky Carp won their game on Thursday night with a 4-2 comeback win against the West Michigan Whitecaps. That allowed the second-place Sky Carp to pull to within three games of the Cubs. The Rattlers are four games behind South Bend. There are 27 games remaining in the regular season.
Game four of the series is Friday night. Game time is 6:40pm.