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Rattlers Hang on to Beat South Bend and Claim Series

The opportunities were there for the South Bend Cubs on Sunday afternoon against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.  The Wisconsin bullpen and defense pulled those opportunities away in a 5-3 victory with 5-2/3 scoreless innings.  Jackson Chourio was the offensive star for Wisconsin as the #1 prospect of the Milwaukee Brewers went 4-for-4 with a homer, two RBI, and two runs scored.

 

Chourio gave the Rattlers (58-49 overall, 22-20) the lead and the fans something to marvel two batters into the bottom of the first inning.  Darrien Miller drew a four-pitch walk from South Bend starting pitcher Daniel Palencia to start the frame.  Palencia fell behind Chourio with three straight balls.  Chourio had a 3-0 green light and he drove a 99-mph fastball from Palencia over the wall in left for a 400-foot, two-run home run with an exit velocity of 103-mph.

The Cubs (59-49, 25-17) answered in similar fashion in the top of the third.  Wisconsin starter Israel Puello walked Pete Crow-Armstrong to start the inning.  Then, Jordan Nwogu hit a two-run homer to tie the game.

Wisconsin rallied in the bottom of the third to take back the lead.  Miller walked and Chourio singled with one out.  Zavier Warren drew a walk to load the bases.  Jeferson Quero drove in Miller with a single to right and the Rattlers were up 3-2. 

Eduardo García was up with two outs and sent ball up the middle that Palencia deflected with his right arm into the base umpire for an infield single and a 4-2 lead.  Palencia followed that with a wild pitch to let Warren score for a three-run cushion.

Puello got the first out in the top of the fourth inning but walked the next three batters to load the bases.  Wisconsin called on Christian Tripp to face Pete Crow-Armstrong, the #4 prospect in the Chicago Cubs minor league system.  Tripp got the strikeout for the second out of the inning.  However, a walk to Nwogu forced in a run before Tripp got the final out of the inning to keep the Rattlers up 5-3.

The game would follow that pattern for the rest of the game.  South Bend would get a runner on bases or into scoring position only to see a Wisconsin reliever escape the jam.

Taylor Floyd, who took over for Tripp in the sixth inning, had a runner at third with one out but struck out Crow-Armstrong and retired Nwogu on a flyout to center. 

In the seventh, Floyd faced a bases-loaded situation with one out and Kevin Made at the plate.  Made sent a sharp grounder that was headed to the outfield for a game-tying single.  Eduardo García made a diving stop at short and flipped the ball to second.  Jose Acosta made a bare-hand catch as he stepped on second and fired to first in time for the inning-ending double play.

James Meeker entered the game in the top of the eighth and hit the first batter he faced before getting Yeison Santana to hit into a much more routine 6-4-3 double play.

Meeker got the first out of the ninth when Nwogu tried to bunt his way on base but was retired when Miller made the catch in foul territory behind the plate.  The degree of difficulty was ramped up as the next two batters reached on a single and a double to put the tying runs in scoring position with one out.  Meeker settled down to close out the game as he struck out Pablo Aliendo and got BJ Murray to line out to left to end the game.

South Bend stranded twelve runners and went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in the game.

The victory gave Wisconsin the edge in the season series over the Cubs.  The Rattlers went 10-8 against South Bend this season and have claimed the tie-breaker.  If the two teams end the second half tied at the top of the division, Wisconsin would make the playoffs on the tie-breaker.

The race for the second-half Western Division Title tightened up even more on Sunday.  The Beloit Sky Carp rallied with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the West Michigan Whitecaps at home.  The Sky Carp trail the Cubs by one game.  The Timber Rattlers are three games back with 24 games to play.  Beloit heads to South Bend to start a six-game series on Tuesday night.
 

The Timber Rattlers are off on Monday.  They are back in action on Tuesday evening with game one of a series with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, the first-half Western Division champions, at Perfect Game Field in Iowa.  Justin Jarvis (9-6, 3.74) is the scheduled starting pitcher for Wisconsin.  Game time is 6:35pm.

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