The pitches seemed unhittable, high-speed stuff that stayed just enough out of the strike zone to be effective, close enough to not be ignored.
Jose Alberto Rivera gave the Burlington Bees plenty of hope in the final four innings of Wednesday’s Class A Midwest League game at Community Field. But every opportunity would be whisked away by a fastball that was too much to handle.
Rivera was the winning pitcher in Quad Cities’ 7-5 victory over the Burlington Bees, using a high-90s fastball that created plenty of havoc, but also plenty of chances that the Bees’ hitters couldn’t seize.
Every inning from the sixth on, the Bees had runners in scoring position, and got nothing.
“He was nasty,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Electric.”
Rivera (3-3), who came into the game with an 8.38 earned run average, struck out two of the first three hitters he faced in a 1-2-3 fifth inning after the River Bandits had tied the game at 5.
Then came a parade of baserunners that teased in the last four innings.
Especially tough was the sixth inning, when the Bees loaded the bases with nobody out. Justin Jones led off with a single, then Harrison Wenson pushed a bunt up the middle that got by Rivera for a single. Morgan McCullough walked to load the bases.
But Connor Fitzsimons followed with a hard grounder to third baseman Michael Wielansky, who threw home for the force out on Jones. Catcher Oscar Campos threw to first to complete the double play. Jordyn Adams’ flyout ended the inning.
That started a chain of missed scoring opportunities.
Francisco Del Valle singled with one out in the seventh, then Nonie Williams doubled. But Rivera struck out Spencer Griffin and got Jones on an infield popup.
In the eighth, Fitzsimons walked with two outs, and moved to second on a wild pitch. But Fitzsimons was out trying to advance to third.
Rivera got the first two outs of the ninth, but walked Del Valle and Williams. Rivera, though, struck out Griffin to end the game.
“He’s definitely a punch-out guy, but you could see where he could get erratic,” Howell said of Rivera. “We just couldn’t catch up, and when he did get erratic, we couldn’t get the big hit.”
The River Bandits got two early runs off Bees starter Hector Yan, who came into the game having not allowed a run in 15 innings and a hit in the last 11.
The hitless streak was broken in the first inning on Campos’ two-out single. Two innings later, the River Bandits scored twice on a home run by Jeremy Pena and an RBI double by Campos.
The Bees got all of their runs in the fourth inning. Jones was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then Wenson doubled to center field to bring in two runs for a 3-2 lead. McCullough had an RBI single and Fitzsimons followed with a run-scoring double.
All of that came after the Bees were silenced in the first three innings by Quad Cities starter Jose Bravo, who had allowed one hit and struck out five until the fourth.
“We finally got to that guy who was so filthy, and we dropped a five-spot on him,” Howell said.
Yan couldn’t hold the lead. He walked Michael Wielansky to lead off the fifth, then gave up singles to Pena and Ross Adolph to end his night.
“Yan’s been so electric, it’s not like you can really say anything,” Howell said. “If anything, his secondary stuff, he was having a hard time. Most importantly, credit to them, they weren’t chasing it. These guys didn’t chase.”
Tyler Smith (5-2) was the losing pitcher.
ON DECK: The Bees and River Bandits take the series to Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport for the next two games. The two teams were supposed to play there to open the season, but flooding from the Mississippi River forced the games to be moved to Burlington. Burlington’s Robinson Pina (4-2, 3.66 ERA) will face Quad Cities’ Felipe Tejada (2-0, 3.32).
NOTES: Adams had his 10-game on-base streak snapped. He went 0-for-5. … Williams has a four-game hitting streak. He went 2-for-4 to push his average in the streak to .500 in the streak. … McCullough, a 22nd-round pick for the Los Angeles Angels in the MLB draft earlier this month, went 1-for-3 in his first game with the Bees. … Attendance was 601.