Justin Jones’ ninth-inning at-bat was a perfect example of how things didn’t go right for the Burlington Bees to begin their final homestand of the Class A Midwest League season.
The 2-1 loss to the Beloit Snappers on Saturday night at Community Field was another struggle offensively for the Bees (63-68 overall, 24-37 second half). Burlington had just four hits and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a continuing story throughout the second half.
“You’re not going to win games on one run and (four) hits,” Bees manager Jack Howell said.
The Bees left runners in scoring position in four innings, including the ninth.
Francisco Del Valle opened the inning with a double, then Jones put together a nine-pitch at-bat that showed just how things were working against the Bees.
Jones pounded the eighth pitch of the at-bat down the left-field line. It looked, for a few seconds, like it was going to be a possible game-winning home run, at the very least an extra-base hit to tie the game. Instead it hooked foul, hitting off the top of the Bees’ bullpen bench as Beloit left fielder Michael Woodworth tried to chase down the fly ball.
On the next pitch, Jones hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Max Schuemann, whose throw to first base sailed to the left of first baseman Santis Sanchez, and also right into the path of Jones. Sanchez lunged for the throw, then tagged out Jones. Beloit reliever Calvin Coker finished his third save by striking out Harrison Wenson and Ryan Vega.
“But that shows the value of putting the ball in play,” Howell said. “(Jones) almost gets enough of it to get it out of here. Then on the grounder, it almost becomes an error.”
The Bees had 14 strikeouts. They had at least one strikeout with runners on base in three of the four innings in which they left runners in scoring position.
Beloit broke a ninth-inning tie on Nick Ward’s two-out single off Bees reliever Chad Sykes (0-1) that scored Devin Foyle.
Bees starter Keith Rogalla had his longest outing of the season in his return from elbow surgery that ended last season. Rogalla went five innings, allowed four hits, and struck out six.
“We got him up for the fifth inning, which we haven’t done this season,” Howell said. “We wanted to get him to at least 75 pitches, and he threw 79 and really didn’t struggle.”
Beloit took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Skyler Weber’s two-out double that scored Anthony Churlin. The Bees tied the game in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Wenson and Vega.
“It was kind of a dead team for both games,” Howell said.
NOTES: Bees outfielder Nonie Williams extended his on-base streak to 14 games with a fourth-inning walk. … Vega had two of the Bees’ four hits. … Attendance was 1,224.
Photo: Kyle Tyler went 7-1 with a 2.64 ERA for the Burlington Bees this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
Kyle Tyler remembered his last rough outing with the Burlington Bees.
Tyler gave up six earned runs, including two home runs, in a 13-10 loss to the Quad Cities River Bandits on May 31.
Tyler had a 4.34 ERA after that game, his 10th appearance of the season.
“I gave up four or five runs on decent pitches,” Tyler said. “From then on out, I just told myself something had to change. I guess it was more a mental block than anything.”
Something changed, for the better, and it earned Tyler a promotion from the Bees to the Los Angeles Angels’ High-A team at Inland Empire last week.
From that game on, Tyler went 6-1 with a 1.60 ERA in 11 games. He allowed 38 hits in 56 ⅔ innings, striking out 44.
Tyler, 7-1 with a 2.68 ERA for the Bees this season, closed his time with the team by allowing just three hits and striking out five in five scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over Kane County on Aug. 11 at Community Field. He was promoted three days later.
Tyler was 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in June that included two unusual complete games — he threw five innings in back-to-back rain-shortened wins — and 2-1 with an 0.96 ERA in July. He was 1-0 with an 0.90 ERA in August when he was promoted.
“I feel like it’s gone pretty good,” Tyler said of his season. “A little rocky at the beginning, but with a few adjustments, and I’ve had some time for pitch development, it’s gone well since then.
“I don’t think there was anything wrong. I think things just weren’t working the way they should.”
Tyler left for Inland Empire while leading the Midwest League in ERA (2.60) and batting average against (.196). He was third in the league with a 1.05 ERA.
“He’s always had good command of his pitches,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “He goes right at hitters.”
Tyler, a 20th-round pick of the Angels out of Oklahoma in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, went 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA with the Angels’ Rookie League team in Orem last season.
He was primarily a starter with the Bees, although he made five relief appearances, picking up two saves in the first two months of the season.
“Being a starter and a reliever, you get to see the world from both sides,” said Tyler, who had a similar role at Oklahoma. “Being a starter, you have time to do whatever you need to do. It’s your game, you control how it goes. Being a reliever, you come in in bad situations, or you’re lucky enough to come in in a fresh inning, and you pick up where the starter left off.”
The step up to the Midwest League provided an education.
“Everybody here can hit a fastball,” said Tyler, who throws a fastball, slider and change-up. “That’s very apparent. So you have to make sure you mix in every pitch, that you can control every pitch, and keep it near the (strike) zone.
“I learned that I really need to get ahead with the fastball if I can, then throw the off-speed pitches for strikes when I need to. Guys are disciplined up here — if they get their pitch, they’re going to hit it. If I can keep them off-balance, mixing in all three pitches, then I can keep guys off-balance.”
Tyler may not know what kicked off his change of fortune, but it fit into his plan for the season.
“I wanted to have a good season,” Tyler said. Win as much as possible, obviously. Just get all of my pitches to a new level that they haven’t been. Just keep developing every day as a pitcher, whether it’s as a starter or as a reliever.
“And I think I’ve done that.”
SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR IN THE CLOSING DAYS
The Bees, who lost out on a playoff spot in the first half because of a tiebreaker, aren’t going to be in the postseason after struggling in the second half.
But they’re closing strong, which is something manager Jack Howell talked about with his team.
“One of the things we said was, let’s win the rest of our series,” Howell said.
They did that in a three-game set against Kane County last weekend, then took 2-of-3 at Clinton. They have won the first two games of a four-game series at Beloit.
The Bees are on a four-game winning streak, their longest since a five-game winning streak July 6-11.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Batting average: .249
Opponents’ batting average: .260
Opponents’ ERA: 3.83
Notes: Justin Jones batted .500 with three runs scored and four runs batted in. … Nonie Williams batted .318 and scored six runs. … Jordyn Adams had hits in his first three games off the injured list. … Harrison Wenson had two home runs during the week.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• At Beloit (6:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday) — The final games for the Bees at Beloit this season. They have taken the first two games of the series, and hold an 8-4 edge in the season series.
• At Wisconsin (7:05 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — The final games of the season against the Timber Rattlers. Wisconsin has a 6-5 advantage in the season series.
• Beloit (6:30 p.m. Saturday and next Monday and Tuesday, 2 p.m. Sunday) — The final homestand of the season begins with a four-game series against the Snappers.
Photo: Burlington Bees starter Cole Duensing pitched three shutout innings in Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Kane County Cougars. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
They were innings that could help build a good finish to Cole Duensing’s season.
The Burlington Bees right-hander threw three shutout innings to start Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Kane County Cougars in a Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.
Duensing threw 59 pitches, 33 for strikes. The sixth-round pick for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft allowed just two hits, walked two, and struck out three.
“It felt good. It felt good to be back,” said Duensing. “The stuff was working. I threw strikes, and the defense made plays behind me.”
It’s been an up-and-down season for Duensing, who is 6-5 with a 4.61 earned run average with the Bees. He was the winning pitcher in a July 15 home win over Lake County, allowing two hits and one earned run in five innings. But in his next two starts, he allowed eight earned run in 4 1/3 innings, with five walks and four strikeouts.
Duensing was placed on the 7-day injured list on July 29, and in a rehab start with the Angels’ Arizona League team on Aug. 7 walked four of the five batters he faced, throwing just two strikes in 18 pitches.
“Everything was different for me tonight,” Duensing said. “The scenery, being with my teammates. It was just more confidence for me being back here, where I’ve been all year.”
Duensing was sharp and confident in this game, retiring five of the first six hitters he faced. The Cougars had runners in scoring position in each of the three innings, but Duensing pitched out of each jam.
His best work came in the third, after he allowed a single to Nick Dalesandro and a walk to David Garza. Duensing struck out Dominic Fletcher and Zack Shannon, then got Buddy Kennedy on a flyout to left field to end the inning.
“Getting ahead of hitters is something we’ve been focusing on, because it’s a lot easier for me when I get ahead in the count,” Duensing said. “I was really happy with how I executed that tonight.”
“He pounded the (strike) zone, which is what we ask,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “It seemed like if he got behind, he came back and made his pitches.”
The Bees (57-63 overall, 18-32) still took two of the three games from the Cougars (69-50, 34-16), who lead the Western Division.
The Bees only got two hits. Both of their runs came in the fourth inning without a hit. Adrian Rondon scored on an error and Francisco Del Valle came in on a bases-loaded walk.
Kane County took the lead in the seventh off losing pitcher Keith Rogalla (0-1). Fletcher doubled and moved to third on Shannon’s single, then scored on Kennedy’s single.
The Bees didn’t get a hit after Livan Soto’s single in the fifth inning.
“We faced the best pitching staff in the league, and they got the better end today,” Howell said.
The Bees, and the rest of the league, have Tuesday off. Burlington begins a 10-game road trip with Wednesday’s game at Clinton.
“We need (the day off),” Howell said. “We talked about how we played 20 days in a row, then after the off day we played 20 more. Our goal is to win every series from here on out, close strong.”
Photo: Hector Yan leads the Midwest League with 132 strikeouts. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
The workload this season hasn’t bothered Burlington Bees pitcher Hector Yan.
The weather? Well, that’s different.
Yan, a 20-year-old left-hander ranked as one of the best pitching prospects in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization, leads the Midwest League with 132 strikeouts heading into the final days of the season.
Yan, 4-4 with a 3.24 earned run average, has posted impressive numbers in his first full season in the minor leagues. Opponents are hitting .189 against him, and he has allowed just 64 hits in 94 ⅓ innings.
“I’ve learned a lot of things, especially how to compete,” Yan said through a translator. “Also, with the innings I’ve been able to throw, it helps me get comfortable with the game, and to learn more.”
Yan has thrown 18 more innings this season than the three previous seasons combined. But he said he was prepared for that workload.
“I feel good, mentally strong,” he said.
“For the most part, when you look over the season, he’s had a good season,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “There were a couple of games there where he had a little bit of a struggle. But he’s learning to be more efficient. He’s had a good year.”
Yan’s longest outing for the season was on June 20 against Kane County, when he threw 6 ⅓ no-hit innings. That was the second of two games in which he didn’t allow a hit.
Yan has a four-pitch combination of a fastball, a split-fingered fastball, a slider and a curveball. Howell said the plan this season has been for him to use all four pitches.
“He still needs to be more efficient, get longer into games,” Howell said. “But that’s a strong arm. You’re talking a split, a changeup, a slider, and then a fastball with some pretty good velo. He’s got a lot of ammunition, and we’re forcing him to use those pitches in different counts.
“At this level, we could turn him loose with 80-90 percent fastballs, and he would probably be unhittable. But you move up to the next level, and guys will be sitting fastball on you, and then you would be in trouble. He’s learning great lessons.”
“Just throwing them,” Yan said. “Just going out there and trusting the work I’ve put in before. Just keep working, and if they don’t go like I want them to, I keep trying.
“I’ve learned that hitters in this league are more consistent, they’re smarter. They don’t go after every pitch. So it makes me work a little more intelligently toward the hitters. I learned that right away.”
Yan also learned about the Midwest weather right away. In the spring chill, he was 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in April and 0-1 with a 4.41 ERA in May.
Yan was 2-0 in June with a 2.19 ERA and 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA in July. He is 0-1 with a 1.64 ERA in August.
“It was kind of tough in the beginning, because I’ve never been in weather this cold,” Yan said. “So it was kind of hard the first couple of months getting used to it. With the cold, everything feels a little bit worse. Now that it’s warmer, I’m getting more comfortable.”
Yan is ranked No. 18 on Baseball America’s top-30 prospects list for the Angels, No. 7 among pitchers. He is ranked 19th on MLB.com’s Angels prospects list, No. 8 among pitchers.
Right-handed hitters are batting .168 with a .524 OPS against Yan, while left-handed hitters bat .253 with a .687 OPS.
Yan had an 89-pitch night, 62 for strikes, in Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Wisconsin. He got into the sixth inning, but gave up a single and hit a batter before being lifted.
“We’re just kind of being smart with him,” Howell said. “That was more about getting him up for the sixth inning. He’s learning about being more efficient.”
Yan, under the current rotation, should get 3-4 more starts before the end of the season. He already has a plan for the offseason.
“I need to work on my physique, and rest my arm,” he said. “Try to be more intelligent coming into next season.”
Photo: Nonie Williams hits a triple to drive in the first run in Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Kane County Cougars. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
A CROWDED WEEKEND
Howell appreciated the turnout at Community Field for the weekend games against Kane County.
Attendance for Saturday’s game was 2,202, while Sunday’s game on Community Basket Day was 2,188. The Bees won both games.
“It was good to see,” Howell said.
On Saturday night, the Bees honored the host families for the players and coaching staff.
“We talk about it a little bit,” Howell said. “Obviously the host family thing was big. It’s a special day. And they knew (Sunday) was a big day, where people could win money (in the Community Basket contest) and it was an important day for (Bees general manager) Kim (Parker). I think, when you notice it, you want to have a good game and play well.
“I think they knew it was a big weekend.”
A season-high 2,555 fans attended the July 3 game against Cedar Rapids. The Bees have had 16 games of 1,000 or more fans this season, with seven of those having crowds of 2,000 or more.
The Bees’ attendance this season is at 57,119, an average of 1,020 per game. After Monday’s home game against Kane County, seven home games remain.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Batting average: .192
Opponents’ batting average: .215
Opponents’ ERA: 2.10
Notes: Bees’ pitchers allowed just one run over the final 21 innings. … Justin Jones drove in seven runs.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• At Clinton (6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — After Tuesday’s off day, the Bees play at Clinton for the final time this season. Burlington is 5-6 against the LumberKings this season.
• At Beloit (6:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 6:30 p.m. next Monday-Tuesday) — It’s also the final trip of the season for the Bees to Beloit. The Bees are 6-4 in the season series.
Nonie Williams is seventh in the Midwest League with 54 walks. … Francisco Del Valle is tied for eighth with 35 extra-base hits. … Kyle Tyler is second with a 2.64 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .196 against him. Tyler is fourth in the league with a 1.05 WHIP, and leads the league with an .880 winning percentage. … Robinson Pina is fifth with 118 strikeouts.
Photo: Burlington Bees left fielder Ryan Vega tracks down a fly ball in Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
It felt like spring.
Not the weather, of course. Sunday’s Class A Midwest League game between the Burlington Bees and Kane County Cougars at Community Field was played on a humid, overcast day.
But the Bees’ 3-0 win was much like a lot of those games in the chilly first half — great pitching, timely hitting.
Kyle Tyler (7-1), Luis Alvarado and Ethan Clark combined on a three-hit shutout for the Bees (57-62 overall, 18-31 second half), who have won back-to-back games against the Cougars (68-50, 33-16), the second-half Western Division leader.
“Good pitching beats good hitting, right?” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Like we continue to say, the real good success we had in the first half was just incredible pitching, and then just find a way to get runs across, which is what today’s game was?”
It was the second consecutive game of quality pitching — Clayton Chatham and Ed Del Rosario combined for the victory in Saturday’s 2-1 game.
Tyler allowed three hits and struck out five while not allowing a walk. Alvarado walked two in three innings. Clark pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save.
All of Burlington’s runs came in the fifth. Nonie Williams’ triple scored Francisco Del Valle with the first run, then Williams scored on Justin Jones’ single. Kevin Maitan’s bases-loaded walk accounted for the third run.
It was enough against the Cougars, who lead the Midwest League with a 2.78 earned run average.
“Would you like to score more and get more hits? Sure. But they have one of the best pitching staffs in the league,” Howell said.
Jackson Goddard (5-4) was the losing pitcher.
ON DECK: The two teams conclude their three-game series with Monday’s 6:30 p.m. game. Burlington’s Keith Rogalla (0-0, 2.70) will face Kane County’s Michel Gelabert (3-1, 1.99).
NOTES: Monday’s game is the final appearance of the season for the Cougars at Community Field. The two teams will meet in the final three-game series of the season at Kane County Aug. 31-Sept. 2. … Attendance was 2,188 on Community Basket Day.
Photo: Clayton Chatham allowed one run over six innings for the win on Saturday night. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
The previous night’s starter didn’t get out of the first inning, and things had gotten to the point that two position players had to pitch the ninth inning.
That meant, for the Burlington Bees on Saturday night, they were going to need innings from as few pitchers as possible.
Clayton Chatham and Ed Del Rosario did that, combining on a six-hitter as the Bees downed the Kane County Cougars, 2-1, at Community Field.
Chatham pitched six innings, the longest outing of his professional career, allowing just five hits and a walk while striking out eight. Del Rosario took over, striking out seven over three innings.
“Besides a starter, we also saved a reliever arm,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “You never want to say you’re back to square one, but today picked us up a lot.”
It was the first professional win for Chatham (1-2), signed by the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent last summer.
“It’s just really awesome to help the team out, especially when we’ve been struggling lately,” Chatham said. “It was a good team win.”
The Bees (56-62) had to go deep into the bullpen in Friday’s 7-2 loss to Wisconsin, when Robinson Pina came out after only two-thirds of an inning. They used three relievers — Parker Joe Robinson, Chad Sykes and Greg Veliz. In the ninth inning, designated hitter Connor Fitzsimons came in and threw one pitch before leaving with an injury that landed him on the injured list on Saturday. Outfielder Rayneldy Rosario finished the game.
The best-case scenario for Saturday was for Chatham to go as long as possible, even if that wasn’t stated directly to him.
“There was no expectation, which really helped out,” Chatham said. “There was no pressure. Just go out there and do a good job.”
“I didn’t really say anything,” Howell said. “Just talked about the process of development — go out and make first-pitch strikes.”
Chatham threw 92 pitches, 61 for strikes. It was the most pitches he had thrown this season, although he had been in the 80s with his pitch count in his last three starts.
“It was kind of touch-and-feel,” Chatham said. “And then I threw one good curveball, and it all kind of clicked. I pitched well with that tonight.”
Photo: Ed Del Rosario pitched three scoreless innings for his second save of the season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
Del Rosario then finished the game, allowing one hit and one walk. He struck out the side in a perfect ninth to gain his second save of the season.
Del Rosario threw 46 pitches. He faced just 11 batters.
“He was pitching well,” Howell said, noting that reliever Mayky Perez was ready in the bullpen. “If he can finish it out, that’s another arm we can save.”
Justin Jones’ two-run home run in the second inning was all the Bees needed on offense.
Three errors in the first inning helped keep Robinson Pina from having a longer outing, and taxed the Burlington Bees’ bullpen.
The 7-2 win by the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in Friday’s Class A Midwest League game at Community Field was a game that got away early, the 11th loss for the Bees in the last 12 games.
Wisconsin (57-59 overall, 26-21 second half) took two of the three games in the series. The Bees (55-62, 16-31) committed 11 errors over the three games.
“We couldn’t get them out, we couldn’t score,” Bees manager Jack Howell said.
Pina (4-7) struck out three in the first inning, but only got two outs. He had thrown 34 pitches in the inning before being removed after walking Chad McClanahan.
Pina struck out Jesus Lujano to open the game, but Lujano reached when the third strike got away from catcher Keinner Pina. He then struck out Korry Howell for the first out, but surrendered a two-run home run to Thomas Dillard.
Pina struck out David Fry for the second out, but Je’Von Ward and Brent Diaz both reached on errors by second baseman Adrian Rondon. With Ward on third and Diaz on first, the Timber Rattlers tried a double steal. Keinner Pina threw down to second, and then Ward sprinted home. Shortstop Livan Soto’s throw home was wild for the third error of the inning, allowing Diaz to go to third.
When McClanahan walked, Pina was at his pitch limit for the inning.
“The only thing you can say is the errors cost him his outing,” Howell said.
The Bees had to scramble with pitching after that. Parker Joe Robinson pitched 3 1/3 innings. Chad Sykes followed with 1 2/3 innings, and Greg Veliz pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings.
Howell ended up having to use two position players to pitch the ninth. Designated hitter Connor Fitzsimons started in the ninth, throwing one pitch before leaving with an injury. Outfielder Rayneldy Rosario pitched a scoreless inning, allowing two hits while striking out one.
The Bees got to within 3-1 in the fourth on Kevin Maitan’s solo home run to left-center field. They added a run in the ninth when Nonie Williams scored on a wild pitch.
Photo: Bees pitcher Hector Yan (left) steps on first base to get Wisconsin’s Antonio Piñero in the fourth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
It was an exhibition of tightrope walking, with two starting pitchers and five relievers trying to stay balanced.
The one slip came from the Burlington Bees.
The Bees’ 1-0 loss to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Thursday night at Community Field was a nine-inning revolving door, pitchers in and out of trouble, the big hit lacking.
It was a game that left the losing manager impressed at the escapes.
“It was all good,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Great pitching — guys made pitches when they had to. We just didn’t get the hits at the right time.”
The lone run came in the second inning, when Wisconsin’s L.G. Castillo led off with a double and scored on Chad McClanahan’s single.
And that was it. Four Wisconsin pitchers combined on the five-hit shutout, getting out of potential scoring situations in four of the last five innings.
The Bees’ pitching was just as impressive. Starter Hector Yan (4-4) struck out 10 in five innings, allowing four hits. Luis Ramirez and Dylan Clark closed the game with four scoreless innings, leaving Timber Rattlers in scoring position in all of those innings.
“They snuck the one across early on Yan, and we shut them down from there,” Howell said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t get that big hit.”
Wisconsin batters were 1-of-13 with runners in scoring position, and the Timber Rattlers left 11 men on base.
The Bees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, leaving five runners on base while also grounding into two double plays.
“It’s about making contact, having good at-bats,” Howell said. “That’s one of the things that I think you have to learn at this level — early in the game, you’re wanting to do damage. Later on, you want to shorten your swing, make good contact.”
Yan continued his season of mastery, allowing four hits and walking one. He threw 89 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Ramirez pitched out of a bases-loaded-no-outs situation in the sixth. In the seventh, he gave up a one-out single to Korry Howell, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Another wild pitch moved Howell to third, but he wanted more, trying to score as the ball rolled toward the Bees’ dugout. But catcher Harrison Wenson grabbed the ball and fired back to Ramirez covering at the plate, and he tagged Howell out for the second out of the inning. David Fry then walked, but Ramirez picked him off at first to end the inning.
Two innings were especially frustrating for the Bees.
Kevin Maitan tripled to lead off the seventh, one of his three hits in the game. But he was left stranded at third as Adrian Rondon grounded out and then Francisco Del Valle and Nonie Williams struck out.
Maitan and Rondon had back-to-back singles to open the ninth. Del Valle struck out, then Williams hit a hard grounder that was fielded by Fry at third. The Timber Rattlers turned the game-ending double play, catching Williams by a half-step at first.
Luis Contreras (1-1) was the winning pitcher. Victor Castañeda got his sixth save.
Photo: Francisco Del Valle is congratulated by Bees manager Jack Howell after his seventh-inning home run. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
By John Bohnenkamp
Francisco Del Valle’s first home run of the night left Community Field without a doubt.
The second one didn’t have the same certainty.
“I thought it was going to be a double, bounce (against) the wall,” Del Valle said. “Then I saw it kept carrying.”
It had enough carry to go over the right-center field fence, and it took the Burlington Bees’ nine-game losing streak with it.
The first multi-homer game of Del Valle’s professional career was enough to take the Bees to a 5-3 win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Wednesday night.
Del Valle’s three-run home run capped the four-run seventh inning as the Bees (55-60 overall, 16-29 second half) snapped their longest skid of the Class A Midwest League season.
“Bottom line, you have to say Del Valle carried us,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Got us over the hump.”
Del Valle went 3-for-4 — he had a double in the second inning and a solo home run in the fourth — as part of the Bees’ nine-hit night.
It could have been another ugly night for the Bees — they committed five errors in the first four innings — but they only trailed 3-1 after Wisconsin (55-59, 24-21) threatened early and often but failed to get bigger production.
“We were pretty confident,” Del Valle said. “We trust our team. We lost nine games in a row, but we’ve won games like this. Yeah, we were pretty confident.”
“We made the pitches, got out of a couple of jams,” Howell said. “Like we’ve always talked about, it’s about limiting damage.
“I wasn’t as concerned. Yeah, it sucks to look up and see five errors. But it was just kind of basic stuff. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
The Bees’ rally came against Wisconsin reliever Joey Matulovich (0-2). Alvaro Rubalcaba walked to lead off the inning, then Livan Soto singled and Kevin Maitan was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Nonie Williams, who is batting just .116 over his last 10 games, hit a sacrifice fly on a 2-2 pitch to left-center field to score Rubalcaba.
“Nonie, who hasn’t been swinging the bat well, gets the sac fly,” Howell said. “That’s huge, with two strikes. That’s a big at-bat.”
Del Valle then hit his home run, making it only the second time this season the Bees have had two home runs by one player.
“First time (in the career), hitting two homers, that’s unbelievable,” Del Valle said.
Photo: Francisco Del Valle runs down a fly ball to end Wisconsin’s bases-loaded threat in the third inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)
Del Valle has been one of the Bees’ top hitters in the last two months. He was batting just .167 on July 5, but has increased his average by 49 points since then, hitting .323 over that stretch.
Del Valle has an 11-game on-base streak, with a .338 average and a .511 on-base percentage in that stretch. Del Valle is second on the team, and 11th in the league, with 50 walks.
“He’s been on for a while,” Howell said. “He’s been coming for a long, long while. Probably a month ago he’s in the .180s.
“I think the big thing for him is not following the average. What he’s been doing was when he wasn’t getting his hits, he was still getting his walks. If you’re just looking stat-wise, he’s right where we want to get guys.”
“I did some adjustments on my leg kick, so I could see the ball better,” Del Valle said. “That’s been working for me the last few games.”
Dylan King (1-1) got his first professional win, throwing three shutout innings. He allowed one hit, walking three and striking out five. Ed Del Rosario pitched the final two innings, striking out three, for his first save of the season.
ON DECK: The two teams play a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday. Burlington’s Hector Yan (4-3) faces Wisconsin’s Victor Castaneda (3-1).
NOTES: Connor Fitzsimons had the Bees’ other multi-homer game this season, hitting two against Clinton on May 15. … Fitzsimons was ejected for arguing a called third strike in the sixth. … Fitzsimons walked in the fourth to extend his on-base streak to 10 games. … Attendance was 714.
Home vs. road: Bees 32-26 at home, Timber Rattlers 21-34 on the road.
Run differential: Bees minus-15, Timber Rattlers minus-16
Extra innings: Bees 7-4, Timber Rattlers 5-4
One-run games: Bees 22-22, Timber Rattlers 16-19
HEAD TO HEAD
Batting average: Bees .200, Timber Rattlers .252
ERA: Bees 4.76, Timber Rattlers 5.20
WHAT TO WATCH
Wisconsin is challenging in the second-half playoff race, just two games behind Clinton for the second Western Division spot.
The Bees have faded from contention. They have lost nine consecutive games, and are 11 games out of the second playoff spot with 26 games to play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
There aren’t a lot of Bees left who have faced the Timber Rattlers this season — only seven position players and four pitchers have played against Wisconsin.
Infielder Justin Jones has a .333 batting average and a 1.012 OPS in four games against Wisconsin. Pitcher Hector Yan, who will start Thursday’s game, has struck out 12 Timber Rattlers in nine innings.
Wisconsin infielder Connor McVey has a .313 batting average and a 1.030 OPS against the Bees.