The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers have had a frustrating month of August that has been encapsulated in their current series with the Lansing Lugnuts at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. The Lugnuts broke a 2-2 tie with a run in the top of the seventh inning and denied the Rattlers during a rally in the bottom of the eighth to hold on for a 3-2 victory on Saturday night. The game didn’t end without incident, either.
Lansing (50-69 overall, 25-28 second half) took the lead in the top of the fourth inning. Cooper Bowman hit a two-run home run to left for a 2-0 lead.
The Rattlers (60-58, 25-28) rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth. Wes Clarke and Joe Gray Jr doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Tayden Hall had a sacrifice fly to center to score Clarke. Ben Metzinger followed with a double to left to score Gray.
Neither starting pitcher gave up another run.
Wisconsin starter Alexander Cornielle worked 5-1/3 innings in his Timber Rattlers debut. He scattered seven hits and three walks and mixed in eight strikeouts. Joey Matulovich had to come into the game with two runners on and one out in the sixth, but the reliever held the line by getting the final two outs of the inning.
Kyle Virbitsky, the starter for Lansing struck out eleven, allowed four hits, walked one, and hit one over six innings.
The one hit batsman was an historic one for Darrien Miller. Virbitsky hit Miller with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. It was the 22nd time Miller has been hit by a pitch this season. Miller has set the new single season record in Timber Rattlers history for being hit by a pitch. Miller, who has been hit by a pitch in all four games he has played in the series with Lansing, had been tied with Clint Coulter and Brandon Macias for the record heading into Saturday’s game,
The Lugnuts went in front in the top of the seventh inning. Shane McGuire dropped a bunt single to start the inning against reliever Justin King. Alexander Campos followed with a bloop single that was just fair inside the line in right to put runners on the corners. King threw a wild pitch to let McGuire score the go-ahead run.
Wisconsin’s best chance to get back to even came in the bottom of the eighth inning after Angello Infante walked Jeferson Quero and Wes Clarke with one out. However, Calvin Coker took over from the Lansing bullpen and retired the next two batters to keep the Lugnuts in the lead.
Tempers boiled over in the top of the ninth inning. Wisconsin reliever Karlos Morales hit Lazaro Armenteros on the foot with an 0-2 pitch and two outs. Armenteros remained on the ground for a few moments and there was an exchange of words the escalated to a bench clearing incident after Armenteros threw his helmet at Morales and there was a wild swing and a miss with a punch as Morales advanced on Armenteros. Miller, the Timber Rattlers catcher, and Lansing manager Phil Pohl grabbed Armenteros to pull the Lugnuts outfielder away from Morales and a heap of bodies wound up tumbling to the ground in front of the Lansing dugout.
Order was finally restored after a few moments. The only ejections of the game were Miller and Armenteros.
The game continued without incident as Morales got the final out of the top of the ninth and Coker retired Wisconsin in order in the bottom of the ninth for his third save of the season.
The Timber Rattlers are 1-4 in the series with Lansing and three of the losses are by one run. Wisconsin is 1-6 in one-run games in August.
The final game of the series is Sunday afternoon at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Carlos Rodríguez (1-1, 1.86) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Lansing has named Mason Miller, who will be making his Midwest League debut, as their starting pitcher. Game time is 1:10pm.