It was a bullpen game for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers against the South Bend Cubs on Saturday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Brady Schanuel, making his first professional start, teamed up with Ryan Middendorf and Robbie Baker to hold South Bend to one run while Wisconsin hitters banged three homers in a 4-1 victory over the Western Division leaders on a wet night at the ballpark.
The Cubs (59-48 overall, 25-16 second half) made a mistake in the bottom of the second inning to open the door and the Rattlers took advantage with back-to-back home runs for a 3-0 lead. South Bend starting pitcher Richard Gallardo retired the first two batters he faced in the second. Ben Metzinger reached on an error to extend the inning. Eduardo García fell behind Gallardo 0-2 but got all of a hanging breaking ball and hit his first Midwest League home run. García had hit ten home runs with the Carolina Mudcats prior to his promotion to Wisconsin.
Jose Acosta was the next batter for the Rattlers (57-29, 21-20), and he lined an 0-1 pitch over the wall in left for his fifth home run of the season.
Jackson Chourio, the #1 prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers, got in on the barrage with a solo homer in the bottom of the third. Chourio’s homer was his third since joining the Timber Rattlers.
Schanuel was called upon to make the start for Wisconsin. The right-hander had made 99 previous appearances as a professional and all of them were as a reliever. Schanuel worked three scoreless innings, walked two, allowed one hit, and struck out two while making 50 pitches (29 strikes) before turning that 4-0 lead over to the next reliever.
The next reliever was Middendorf. He pitched a scoreless fourth and a 1-2-3 fifth. In the sixth, Jordan Nwogu hit a high fly to left-center that was misplayed into a triple. Luis Verdugo knocked in Nwogu with a grounder to short to get South Bend on the scoreboard.
The Cubs got a threat going in the top of the seventh as a steady drizzle that had started earlier in the game fell a little harder. BJ Murray singled and Kevin Made walked with one out. Middendorf retired Fabian Pertuz on a flyout to center for the second out. Then, Wisconsin went back to the bullpen.
Baker took over for Middendorf and got the final out on a force play at third.
The Timber Rattlers added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Chourio drew a walk with one out. Jeferson Quero lined a double to the gap in right-center to drive in Chourio for a 5-1 lead.
James Meeker had been warming in the Wisconsin bullpen in the bottom of the eighth to come in for a save opportunity in the ninth. Meeker sat down after the insurance run scored and the Rattlers sent Baker, who had worked a 1-2-3 eighth, back out for the ninth.
Baker continued his fine run of outings by retiring South Bend in order in the ninth to close out the game for his third save of the season. In his last five appearances, Baker has allowed one hit with no walks and nine strikeouts over 10-1/3 innings. He has retired nineteen batters in a row over his last three appearances.
Wisconsin’s victory tightened the second-half Western Division race. The Beloit Sky Carp beat the West Michigan Whitecaps 8-2 in Beloit on Saturday night. The Sky Carp now trail the Cubs by two games while the Rattlers are in third place four games behind South Bend.
The series finale between the teams is Sunday afternoon. Israel Puello (1-3, 5.65) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Daniel Palencia (1-2, 4.18) is set to start for the Cubs. Game time is 1:10pm.