Gavin Cross did it to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers again. The #1 prospect of the Kansas City Royals hit a three-run home run in the top of the first inning for the Quad Cities River Bandits on Friday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Cross has homered in four straight games in the series and this one propelled the River Bandits to a 4-2 win despite a heroic performance by the Wisconsin bullpen.
Cross stepped to the plate with two runners on and one out in the top of the first inning. He crushed a 1-1 pitch from Wisconsin starter Joseph Hernandez to right-center for a three-run home run. Cross has six homers this season and has hit five of those against the Timber Rattlers.
Javier Vaz added to the River Bandits (16-21) lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second.
Quad Cities loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the third inning when Cross doubled, and Hernandez walked the next two batters. Justin King relieved Hernandez and escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts and a fielder’s choice to keep the score at 4-0.
King struck out the side in the top of the fourth inning and that was just the start of the job by the Wisconsin bullpen.
Edwin Jimenez took over for King in the top of the fifth and started recording strikeouts and putting up more zeroes on the scoreboard.
However, Chandler Champlain kept the Rattlers (11-25) off the scoreboard over his six innings of work. He allowed four hits, walked two, and struck out six to keep the Bandits up 4-0.
The Timber Rattlers got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the seventh inning after Champlain left the game. Eduardo García tripled to start the inning against reliever Marlin Willis. A wild pitch by Willis let García score. Willis had two outs before walking Eduarqui Fernández and hitting Eric Brown Jr. Robert Moore singled to right to score Fernández and the Rattlers were within two runs.
In the top of the ninth, Jimenez picked up his ninth strikeout in 4-1/3 innings of relief work by getting the first batter of the frame. Then, he gave up a walk and a double to bring Cross to the plate. The Rattlers elected to give Cross an intentional walk to load the bases to end the night for Jimenez.
Karlos Morales, the fourth Wisconsin pitcher of the night, got out of the jam with a force play at the plate and a grounder to third to keep Wisconsin in the game.
Anderson Paulino, the Quad Cities closer, took to the hill for bottom of the ninth. He walked Je’Von Ward with one out. Erick Brown Jr singled on an 0-2 pitch with two outs to extend his hitting streak to eight games to bring the winning run to the plate.
A passed ball allowed both runners to move into scoring position. However, Paulino denied the Rattlers the dramatic comeback with a strikeout to end the game and earn his fifth save of the season.
The Wisconsin relief trio of King, Jimenez, and Morales covered seven scoreless innings in the game, allowed two hits, and struck out fourteen to give the bats a chance for the late comeback. However, the loss was the fifth in a row for the Timber Rattlers.
Game five of the series is Saturday afternoon at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Cameron Wagoner (1-5, 9.24) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. The River Bandits have named Tyson Guerrero (0-2, 5.47) as their starter. Game time is 1:10pm.