BEES 3, COUGARS 0: It was like flipping back the calendar

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.

BEES 2, COUGARS 1: Chatham, Del Rosario answer the call to (save) arms

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.

Luis Frias (1-1) was the losing pitcher.

TIMBER RATTLERS 7, BEES 2: Errors make it a short night

Photo: Bees outfielder Rayneldy Rosario pitches a scoreless ninth inning. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

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.

TIMBER RATTLERS 1, BEES 0: A nine-inning high-wire act

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.

BEES 5, TIMBER RATTLERS 3: Del Valle’s two homers help end the losing streak

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.

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.