SOUTH BEND, IN – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers had several near-misses against the South Bend Cubs on Friday night at Four Winds Field. In turn, they saw the Cubs take advantage of almost every opportunity they had in the game. At the end of the night, the Rattlers fell 5-3 to the Cubs.
Wisconsin (17-17 second half, 43-55 overall) took the lead in the first inning on Brock Wilken’s first Midwest League hit. Robert Moore walked to start the game and moved to second on a wild pitch. Wilken, the Milwaukee Brewers #1 pick in the 2023 Draft, stepped in with one out and was down 0-2 to Cubs starter Michael Arias before lining a single to left-center to knock in Moore for a 1-0 lead.
South Bend (16-18, 46-53) went in front in the bottom of the third on a two-run home run by Ezequiel Pagan. The inning started with Ethan Hearn fouling off four two-strike pitches from Wisconsin starting pitcher Tyler Woessner before lining the ninth pitch of the at bat to left for a single. Pagan got all of a 2-0 pitch from Woessner and hit his fifth homer of the season for a 2-1 lead.
Je’Von Ward got the Timber Rattlers back to even with an RBI single to score Hendry Mendez in the top of the fifth inning. The Rattlers had runners on first and second with one out after the single by Ward. Robert Moore looked like he had put the Rattlers in front with a single to right, but second baseman, James Triantos made a diving stop in short right and threw out Moore at first for the second out while allowing the other runners to only advance a base. Arias got the final out of the inning with a strikeout to keep the game tied.
In the top of the sixth, Wilken sent a towering flyball to left field that plopped into the glove of Yohendrick Pinango a few steps shy of the wall.
In the bottom of the sixth, Felix Stevens gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead with a one-out, solo homer over the wall in left-center. Stevens extended his hitting streak to fourteen games with the go-ahead blast off Woessner. Stevens has hit two of South Bend’s five homers in the series with Wisconsin.
The Cubs added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth with key two-out hits. In the seventh, Stiven Cruz walked Luis Verdugo, the lead-off batter. Verdugo was at second with two outs as Josh Rivera worked the count to 3-2. Rivera lined a double to the corner in left for his third hit of the game and an RBI as Verdugo trotted home.
In the eighth, Cruz retired the first two batters of the inning. Pinango hit a routine-looking fly to center that was lost in the twilight and the ball dropped in for a double. Christian Franklin followed with an RBI double to send Pinango home for a 5-2 lead.
The Timber Rattlers didn’t pack it in for the top of the ninth inning against Cubs reliever Sheldon Reed. Ernesto Martinez Jr and Joe Gray Jr had consecutive singles with one out to bring the tying run to the plate. Darrien Miller singled to right with two outs to score Martinez, get Gray to third, and bring the go-ahead run to the plate. However, Reed quashed the Wisconsin rally with a strikeout to end the game and pick up his fourth save.
The Cubs have won three of the first four games of the series and now hold a 6-4 lead in the season series with two games remaining between the clubs this season.
Game five of the series is Saturday night at Four Winds Field. Edwin Jimenez (3-3, 4.52) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. The Cubs have named Connor Noland (1-5, 3.67) as their starter. Game time is 6:05pm CDT.