SERIES PREVIEW: Bees vs. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

A look at the three-game series between the Burlington Bees and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

SERIES FACTS

Game times: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday

Where: Community Field

Second-half records: Bees 15-29, Timber Rattlers 24-20

Overall records: Bees 54-60, Timber Rattlers 55-58

Season series: Tied, 4-4

TEAM COMPARISONS

Last 10: Bees 1-9, Timber Rattlers 5-5

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.

— John Bohnenkamp

KERNELS 6, BEES 5: Casanova’s hit is a heartbreaker

By John Bohnenkamp

CEDAR RAPIDS — Trevor Casanova’s loud double to right field kept the Burlington Bees tumbling in the final weeks of the season.

Casanova’s hit with one out in the ninth inning brought in Wander Javier with the winning run as the Cedar Rapids Kernels rallied for a 6-5 win, sending the Bees to their ninth consecutive loss.

“Five runs has got to win the game,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “We haven’t been a big offensive power all year. When you get late in games, if you’ve got the lead, you’ve got to win them.”

The Bees (54-60) had a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning, then saw the Kernels (66-48) come back with two runs in the fifth before finishing off the victory in the ninth.

“You’ve got to win these games,” Howell said.

Luis Ramirez (0-1) had a nightmarish ninth. The Bees reliever gave up the game-tying home run to Gabe Snyder on the ninth pitch of a pesky at-bat, and it only got worse.

Javier followed with a hard grounder that third baseman Kevin Maitan was able to field, but his throw to first was wild, and Javier reached on the error.

Jared Akins followed with an infield single, but Ramirez got Albee Watts on a foul popup to Maitan for the first out. Casanova then sent a line drive into the right-field corner, and Javier sprinted to the plate.

The Kernels got three home runs — a solo homer by Gilberto Celestino in the first, a two-run shot by Javier in the fifth, and then Snyder’s rocket.

“Too many home runs,” Howell said.

The Bees got all of their runs in the fourth. Justin Jones hit a bases-loaded triple with two outs, then Harrison Wenson followed with a two-run home run to left field.

Austin Schulfer (7-5) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win.

Three of the Bees’ losses in the four-game series were by one run.

“I guess you could be the optimist and say if we win the two 3-2 games, and win tonight, we win three out of four in the series,” Howell said. “But it’s been too long of a streak. I don’t want to say it’s a bad vibe. When we score enough runs, we give too many up. When we don’t score enough, we pitch well.

“That’s been the theme. How do we get out of that? We lock in, get the big hit when we need it, and bear down and make the pitches when we need them.”

NOTES: The Kernels won the season series, 14-4. … Schulfer was 4-0 with a 1.69 earned run average against the Bees this season. … Bees shortstop Livan Soto had his seven-game hitting streak snapped, but has an eight-game on-base streak. … Bees right fielder Francisco Del Valle has a 10-game on-base streak.

THE MONDAY HIVE: It’s the final month of a long season

Photo: Burlington Bees pitcher Hector Yan has thrown 89 1/3 innings this season, almost 60 more than last season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

Jack Howell had his first-of-the-month meeting with his team on Thursday.

The message the Burlington Bees manager had for his team was simple — finish strong.

“This will be about taking care of yourself and finishing strong,” Howell said. “Sometimes a season can be make-or-break in the last month, maybe the last week or 10 days, when you figure something out. Or you let your guard down, and end on a bad note. Be very careful to finish strong, and stay with the process, and go from there.”

Twenty-eight games remain in the season, and the Bees are starting to show some end-of-the-season blues. They’re on a seven-game losing streak, their longest of the season, and sit at 54-58 overall, their worst record of the season.

Howell said he didn’t want to call August, “the dog days,” but he knows it’s been a long season for his team, especially for players who have a.) been here since Opening Day and b.) are playing their first season in a full-season minor league.

A look at the numbers show that:

• Infielder Justin Jones played 48 games last season, and is at 71 this season.

• Infielder Kevin Maitan has played in 99 games in 2019, compared to 63 last season and 42 in 2017.

• Outfielder Nonie Williams has played in 93 games this season, compared to 40 last season, 43 in 2017 and 38 in 2017.

• Outfielder Francisco Del Valle is at 95 games, 30 more than last season.

• Outfielder Jordyn Adams, the Los Angeles Angels’ first-round pick in the 2018 MLB draft, has played in 90 games this season. He played 29 last season. Adams is currently on the injured list.

• Catcher Harrison Wenson is in his second season with the Bees, but has played in three more games this season — 64 as opposed to 61 in 2018.

The numbers difference is just as large among pitchers.

• Luis Alvarado has pitched 79 ⅔ innings this season, compared to 22 last season.

• Cole Duensing, currently on the injured list, has thrown 81 innings this season, compared to 52 ⅓ in 2018.

• Robinson Pina has pitched 90 ⅓ innings this season, as opposed to 44 last season.

• Kyle Tyler has pitched 92 ⅓ innings this season after throwing 24 ⅔ last season.

• Hector Yan has thrown 89 ⅓ innings this season, compared to 29 ⅔ last season.

Because of the long season, the pre-game routine is different heading into the final month.

Howell said work ramped up after the early cold part of the season. Batting practice time on the field would also include infielders taking a long session of ground balls.

Now, Howell said, there isn’t as much work. For example, in Tuesday’s game at Quad Cities, the Bees hit in the batting cage on the field, but did little infield work. On Wednesday, there was no cage hitting, but more infield work.

“When you’re in the second half, and there’s heat and humidity, and as much as these guys have been swinging the bat, you alternate,” Howell said. “A lot of the work with ground balls is select work, guys working on their set-ups or making back-hand plays, things like that.”

Howell understands the exhaustion — the Bees are currently nearing the end of a stretch of 15 road games with only five home games, and there is an upcoming 10-game road trip.

“If you haven’t played a hundred games in a season, with all of the buses and the commutes,” he said. “But other teams are doing the same thing. We just have to finish strong.”

THE MONTH THAT WAS

A look at the Bees’ month of July.

Record: 12-16

Batting average: .236

Opponents’ batting average: .222

ERA: 3.35

Notes: Infielder Adrian Rondon batted .368 in nine games. … Outfielder Francisco Del Valle batted .301 with an .846 OPS in 27 games. … Parker Joe Robinson went 3-0. … Pitcher Kyle Tyler was 2-1 with an 0.96 ERA. … Hector Yan was 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA. … Reliever Ed Del Rosario went 2-0.

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Record: 0-7

Batting average: .210

Opponents’ batting average: .269

ERA: 6.05

Opponents’ ERA: 2.29

Notes: Infielder Livan Soto batted .391 and has a 6-game hitting streak. … Outfielder Ryan Vega hit .318.

THE WEEK AHEAD

• At Cedar Rapids (6:35 p.m. Monday and Tuesday) — The Bees close a four-game series, and the season series, against the Kernels, who have won 12 of the 16 games between the two teams.

• Wisconsin (6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — It’s the last appearance of the season for the Timber Rattlers at Community Field. The two teams have split the first eight games.

• Kane County (6:30 p.m. Saturday and Monday, 2 p.m. Sunday) — It’s also the last appearance of the season for the Cougars at Community Field. The Cougars have a 7-6 lead in the season series.

SERIES PREVIEW: Bees vs. Cedar Rapids Kernels

SERIES FACTS

Game times: 6:35 p.m. Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, 2:05 p.m. Sunday

Where: Perfect Game Field, Cedar Rapids

Second-half records: Bees 15-25, Kernels 23-17

Overall records: Bees 54-56, Kernels 62-48

Season series: Kernels lead, 10-4

TEAM COMPARISONS

Last 10: Bees 2-8, Kernels 6-4

Home vs. road: Bees 22-30 on the road, Kernels 30-26 at home

Run differential: Bees minus-4, Kernels plus-28

Extra innings: Bees 7-4, Kernels 4-1

One-run games: Bees 22-19, Kernels 23-11

HEAD TO HEAD

Batting average: Bees .189, Kernels .237

ERA: Bees 3.86, Kernels 3.10

WHAT TO WATCH

The Kernels and Bees tied for second place in the Midwest League’s Western Division in the first half. Cedar Rapids has kept its pace going in the second half, the Bees have not.

Burlington is on a five-game losing streak, the longest current streak in the Midwest League.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bees infielder Justin Jones has a .300 batting average in 11 games against the Kernels. Pitcher Kyle Tyler is 1-0 with an 0.75 ERA against Cedar Rapids in two starts.

Most of the Kernels who have done damage against the Bees earlier this season are gone. Outfielder Jared Akins had a .268 average with three home runs and nine runs batted in against Burlington. Pitcher Luis Rijo is 2-0 with 12 shutout innings against the Bees. Pitcher Austin Schulfer is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA, and combined to no-hit the Bees earlier in the season.

— John Bohnenkamp

RIVER BANDITS 4, BEES 1: Another hard lesson learned

Photo: Rayneldy Rosario singles to drive in the only run for the Burlington Bees in Friday’s 4-1 loss to Quad Cities. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

It’s Baseball 101, Jack Howell said, and the Burlington Bees are learning some hard lessons lately.

Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Quad Cities River Bandits at Community Field was the latest example.

The River Bandits broke a ninth-inning tie with only one hit — a concoction of walks, soft ground balls that looked troublesome from the moment they were hit, and a sacrifice fly.

It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Bees (54-56 overall, 15-25 second half), who have fallen to their worst winning percentage of the season.

Asked if his team was frustrated, Howell, the Bees’ manager, said, “I mean frustration for the most part — we’re in these games, and we’re losing. I would say yes.”

The Bees led 6-0 in Thursday’s game, and lost 7-6. Four of their losses in this current stretch have been by three runs or less.

“The only game we won recently was 15-5 (on Sunday in Peoria), and that’s not realistic,” Howell said. “We’re giving up too much, and we’re not getting enough. That’s Baseball 101. The combo is not working in our favor right now.”

The other part of the education is the Bees aren’t keeping runners off base. Three of the runs in this game were from batters who had walked.

Hector Yan walked Michael Wielansky to lead off the game, and he scored.

In the ninth, reliever Greg Veliz (0-1) walked Freudis Nova and Grae Kessinger with one out. Alex Holderbach, who slammed a two-run home run in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game, didn’t need any power for the go-ahead run in this game, hitting a slow chopper down the third-base line for an infield single that scored Nova. Kessinger scored when Ramiro Rodriguez hit a ground ball to second, a fielder’s choice that led to a late throw to the plate by Adrian Rondon. A sacrifice fly by Oscar Campos ended the scoring.

“As good as Yan pitches, the only run he gives up? First hitter of the game was a walk,” Howell said. “And then Veliz gets the ground out and then walks two, and they both score. You put men on base…”

Burlington’s lone run came in the seventh. Ryan Vega doubled to lead off the inning and scored on Rayneldy Rosario’s single to tie the game.

Garrett Gayle (1-1) was the winning pitcher.

RIVER BANDITS 7, BEES 6: Rogalla is sharp in return

Photo: Keith Rogalla threw four no-hit innings in his first start of the season with the Burlington Bees. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

It was almost like Keith Rogalla hadn’t been gone for more than a year.

Same ballpark.

Same opponent.

Same catcher.

OK, so it was probably about 40 degrees warmer. Other than that…

Rogalla made his first appearance at Community Field since suffering an elbow injury almost 16 months ago, throwing four no-hit innings, a memorable night in a mostly forgettable game for the Burlington Bees.

The Bees held Quad Cities without a hit for six innings, then surrendered all of the River Bandits’ runs in the final three innings of a 7-6 loss in Thursday’s Class A Midwest League game.

Alex Holderbach’s two-run home run off reliever Mayky Perez (0-5) with two outs in the ninth inning capped the stunning rally on a night when the Bees appeared to have shaken off the funk of the previous week and a half.

Rogalla, a 12th-round pick for the Los Angeles Angels in the 2017 Major League Baseball draft, walked one and struck out four in his seventh start of the season. He threw 48 pitches, 31 for strikes, a brisk performance.

“That was nice, huh?” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Four innings, no hits, four (strikeouts). Man. And worked quick, went right at guys. Pounded the zone.”

Rogalla was hurt on April 13, 2018, in a game against the River Bandits at Community Field. He had thrown his 33rd pitch of the night, the 80th pitch of his season, when he grabbed his elbow in pain.

Rogalla underwent Tommy John surgery later that month, and didn’t pitch again until this season. He pitched in five games with the Angels’ Arizona League team, going 0-3 with an 18.47 earned run average. He then went to the Rookie League team in Orem, where he was 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA in two starts.

This night was almost perfect. Rogalla retired the first seven hitters before walking Trey Dawson. Dawson was thrown out trying to steal second, and Rogalla then retired the next four hitters, finishing his night having faced the minimum 12 batters.

“It was kind of funny,” Rogalla said. “I remembered the last time, when I got hurt, it was against Quad Cities, and Harrison (Wenson) was catching me. So it brought back a little memory.

“It feels good to be back. The whole goal was to get here by the end of the year, and get some competitive innings again. Get healthy, get back out there, get acclimated to competition again.”

“I had no idea,” Howell said when asked what he expected from Rogalla. “I had no idea what he had been doing. I knew he was going to be at four innings, 60 pitches. And if you see something shaky…”

Did he see anything shaky?

“No,” Howell said. “He was really good.”

“In the ‘pen, stuff wasn’t working great,” Rogalla said. “Sometimes, that’s when the best outings happen. I knew I had good command of my fastball, which is always key for me. Harry called a really good game, we were in sync. Just kind of kept rolling from there.”

The Bees were rolling until they weren’t.

Photo: Rayneldy Rosario hits a two-run double in the sixth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

Burlington, which had lost eight of its previous 10 games, got two runs in the first on RBI singles from Francisco Del Valle and Nonie Williams, then added four runs in the sixth on a two-run double from Reyneldy Rosario and a two-run single by Livan Soto.

But Quad Cities wasn’t going away. They got a run in the seventh off reliever Dylan King, who had retired the first six hitters he had faced, then got two more runs in the eighth off him.

Perez got the final out of the eighth, then got the first out of the ninth. Austin Dennis doubled, then Freudis Nova struck out for the second out of the inning.

Dennis scored on a wild pitch when Ramiro Rodriguez walked. Grae Kessinger slammed a double into the left-center field gap to score Rodriguez to cut the lead to 6-5. Then Holderbach powered a long home run to left field, his fifth of the season.

“Gosh dang it,” Howell said. “You’re in the seventh inning, up 6-0, and lose 7-6. Not much you can say.”

The positive of the night was Rogalla.

“It’s been tough, to say the least,” he said. “It’s been a long journey. I had never gotten injured before, so having that come about was a little tough to deal with at first. But having a good support system, with family and with the Angels, just seeing there’s light at the end of the tunnel, allowed me to get through. Yeah, it was challenging at times. It’s a long process. But just happy to be back and be healthy.

“You try to stay positive. Obviously those thoughts creep in your head, you know. What’s going to happen when you come back? Are you going to be the same (pitcher)? I just tried to keep a positive mindset, try to trust what the trainers were saying. Just trust that process, and hope that the work pays off.”

RIVER BANDITS 8, BEES 3: Another rough night as final month of the season closes in

By John Bohnenkamp

DAVENPORT — The success of the Burlington Bees in the first half of the season had plenty to do with the starting pitching.

The Bees have hit a rough spot as the Midwest League season heads into its final month.

Luis Alvarado didn’t make it out of a four-run first inning, and Quad Cities cruised to an 8-3 win on Wednesday night at Modern Woodmen Park.

The Bees (54-54 overall, 15-23 second half) have lost eight of their last 10 games as time is running out on the season.

The Bees completed a stretch where they played 11 of 14 games on the road, with the last five being commuter trips.

“It’s that time every year where everybody goes through it a little bit, a little fatigue,” Bees manager Jack Howell said.

Alvarado (4-7) threw 37 pitches in the first inning, only 19 for strikes, before being taken out.

The first five batters reached base. Michael Wielansky led off with a triple and scored on Cesar Salazar’s single. Austin Dennis singled and Alex McKenna walked to load the bases. Freudis Nova’s double brought in two runs, then after Grae Kessinger walked to load the bases again, David Hensley hit a line drive to center field, a sacrifice fly that scored McKenna.

Alvarado went 3-2 on Ramiro Rodriguez, the ninth batter of the inning, before being removed.

It was the second consecutive night that a Bees starter worked a short game — Kyle Tyler pitched just four innings in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss.

“Is it because guys are figuring them out or they’re just not pitching well? No, I think they’re a little fatigued,” Howell said. “The difference between that good sharp slider and that good fastball, making that big pitch to get out of trouble.”

The Bees’ offense didn’t help. Burlington was held hitless through the first 5 2/3 innings before Livan Soto’s double.

The Bees wouldn’t get another hit again until the eighth. Connor Fitzsimons doubled after Ryan Vega walked to open the inning, then Alvaro Rubalcaba’s double scored Vega and Fitzsimons. Rubalcaba would later score on an error.

Burlington did get a strong relief performance by Ed Del Rosario, who allowed just two hits in 4 1/3 innings in relief of Alvarado. Parker Joe Robinson gave up four runs in the sixth, but retired seven of the last eight hitters he faced.

“We needed that,” Howell said. “They got us to the end.”

Jose Bravo (2-4) was the winning pitcher, throwing six innings before being taken out with an injury at the start of the seventh.