The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers rallied from a 2-1 deficit with three runs in the top of the fifth inning and received three scoreless innings from the bullpen to beat the South Bend Cubs 5-2 in game one of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon at Four Winds Field.
Bradley Blalock, the Rattlers starting pitcher who was making his Timber Rattlers debut, walked the first two batters in the bottom of the first inning. He got a strikeout for the first out, but the Cubs pulled a double steal on the pitch and Ezequiel Pagan was called safe at third on a close play. Moises Ballesteros sent the next pitch deep enough to center to score Pagan on a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead for the Cubs (16-19 second half, 46-54 overall).
Wisconsin (18-17, 44-55) responded with a run in the top of the second. Joe Gray Jr singled, stole second, and went to third on an error with one out. Hendry Mendez drove in Gray with a grounder to second to tie the game.
Blalock, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a deadline deal for Luis Urias, had to work around an error and a walk in the second inning but did it with a caught stealing on a strong throw to third by catcher Matt Wood and a strikeout.
Felix Stevens put the Cubs back in front in the bottom of the fourth. Blalock struck out the first two batters he faced in the inning to give him six strikeouts for the game. However, Blalock fell behind Stevens 2-1 and Stevens cracked the next pitch over the wall in center for the go-ahead homer. Stevens is on a fifteen-game hitting streak and has hit three homers in the first five games of the series with Wisconsin.
The Timber Rattlers eight and nine hitters were not impressed with Stevens hot steak. Alex Hall tied the game in the top of the fifth with a lead-off homer. Jose Acosta followed with a homer and the back-to-back blasts gave the Rattlers a 3-2 lead.
Later in the inning, Brock Wilken drew a two-out walk. Ernesto Martinez cashed in Wilken with a double to right-center and the Rattlers were up 4-2.
Blalock was done after four innings. He allowed two runs on two hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Shane Smith relieved Blalock to start the bottom of the fifth and walked the lead-off batter before retiring the next three batters.
The Cubs went to Adam Laskey for the top of the sixth and he retired the first two Rattlers before walking Hall on four pitched. Acosta followed by sending a ball down the line in left for a double. Hall raced around third and just beat the tag at the plate with a headfirst dive for an insurance run and a 5-2 lead.
Smith gave up a one-out walk and a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth but managed to work a scoreless inning to extend his scoreless streak to 11-1/3 innings. In sixteen appearances with the Timber Rattlers since his promotion from Carolina, Smith has allowed one run and struck out sixteen over 14-2/3 innings.
The bottom of the seventh belonged to Tanner Shears and he pitched around a walk and a single to close out the game for his sixth save of the season.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were held to three hits and struck out ten times against the South Bend Cubs in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Four Winds Field. The Cubs beat the Rattlers 3-0 to split the twinbill and take four of the six games played in the series.
South Bend (17-19 second half, 47-54 overall) grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first inning. Wisconsin starting pitcher Edwin Jimenez got the first out, but walked Liam Spence, the number nine hitter in the Cubs order, on four pitches and hit Ezequiel Pagan on a 1-2 pitch. Christian Franklin followed with a single to left to score Spence for a 1-0 lead.
Luis Devers, who retired fifteen of sixteen Rattlers he faced on Tuesday in game one of the series, set down the first eleven Rattlers he faced in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader. He walked Brock Wilken with two outs in the fourth and Alex Hall singled to right before getting the final out of the inning. The only other hit Devers allowed was a two-out single to Ben Metzinger in the fifth inning.
Spence started a rally for the Cubs in the bottom of the fifth with a double. Jimenez walked Pagan and hit Franklin to load the bases. Matt Shaw singled up the middle on the next pitch to drive in two more runs and the Cubs were up 3-0.
Justin King took over for Jimenez and – despite a walk to reload the bases – kept the Cubs off the scoreboard with four strikeouts in two hitless innings.
The Timber Rattlers (18-18, 44-56) had five base runners in the game, but all reached after there were two outs in an inning. No Rattler reached third base in the nightcap. Wilken, who walked three times in game one, walked twice in the second game to draw five walks in the doubleheader.
The Cubs also claimed the season series from the Timber Rattlers with the win in game two on Sunday. The Rattlers went 5-7 in twelve games against South Bend this season.
Wisconsin is off on Monday. They return home to face the Dayton Dragons on Tuesday at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Nate Peterson (0-1, 9.45) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Kevin Abel (0-0, 7.07) is set to start for the Dragons. Game time is 6:40pm.