The Timber Rattlers Notebook: Quad Cities 5, Wisconsin 3

Yes, the tarantula's name is "Sprinkles."

A night after scoring eight runs on eighteen hits, tonight the Timber Rattlers managed just three hits in a 5-3 loss to Quad Cities. They scored two runs in the third inning but were otherwise shut out by Cardinals prospect Sam Gaviglio, who held them to just three hits, a walk and two hit batsmen over eight innings.

"I thought their guy did an outstanding job," Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson said. " That proved you don't have to throw the ball 100 miles per hour to get people out. He had a little front door slider and he located below the zone all night. He got ahead low in the zone and he got some early-count ground balls, kept us off balance and pounded the zone."

Meanwhile, 2011 seventh round pick David Goforth had a tough night. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over five innings, hitting a batter and allowing two home runs. The silver lining of his night was the fifth inning: He had already given up four runs and could have been lifted, but Erickson elected to send him back out to the mound and was rewarded with a scoreless inning.

"We actually talked about it, his pitch count was right at where I guess it needs to be. We were still in the ballgame, two runs," Erickson said. "Sometimes you've gotta see what these guys are made of and see what they can do to battle out of adversity and I thought he did. He answered the bell there in the fifth and it looked like he finally got comfortable. That might have been his best inning of the night."

Goforth was followed to the mound by Chad Pierce, who allowed a run on four hits over four innings.

Meanwhile, tonight was also the 2012 Wisconsin debut of first baseman Nick Ramirez. He left his apartment in Arizona at 3:45 this morning to make the Phoenix-to-Atlanta-to-Appleton flight, arrived at the ballpark at 4:30 for a 6:30 game, and only had time for "a couple swings in the cage" before batting cleanup as the DH tonight. He went 0-for-4 with four flyouts in the contest, but hit a fly ball to the warning track in straightaway center with a chance to tie the game in the ninth.

"I felt good. I didn't really feel tired at all. I'm more excited to be out here than anything. would've liked to have some better at bats," Ramirez said. "I was probably a little antsy, I'll admit that. I was excited to be out here so I wanted to go out there and show something right off the bat and got a little anxious and swung at some pitches that might not have been good pitches to swing at first at bat and second at bat. I feel like I made a better adjustment in the ninth and better contact. But I'll come out tomorrow and have a better day."

Ramirez had been in extended spring training in Arizona rehabbing a hamate bone injury, but says his hand is back at full strength.

Wisconsin's second run of the night scored on a weird play: Third baseman Brandon Macias singled to left to drive home Yadiel Rivera (with the Timber Rattlers' first run), took second on the throw home, advanced to third when the throw got away, then scored when the throw to third also got away. Erickson credited Macias with heads-up baserunning on the play.

"We preach aggressive baserunning and with a guy on second base when you single to the outfield you're running hard out of the box with your head up reading ball flight, and he did a nice job of reading the outfield throw coming home," Erickson said. He also noted that if Macias had been thrown out at third obstruction would have been called, as he collided with a defender after reaching second. He would have been awarded third base regardless of the outcome of the play, but was able to score on the second error.

Tonight's Wisconsin loss coupled with a Beloit win over Peoria cut Wisconsin's lead in the Midwest League West Division to one game.

After the jump we have features on outfielder Ben McMahan, who had four hits and nearly hit for the cycle Wednesday night, first baseman Jason Rogers and Sprinkles the tarantula.

McMahan's near cycle

Wisconsin had eighteen hits in last night's game, but no one had a better night than left fielder Ben McMahan. He went 4-for-5 in the contest with a single, two doubles and a triple, and came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth needing a home run for the cycle.

"I did know I needed it, and I was up there trying not to do too much but it kind of got in my head a little bit," McMahan said. "I was going to try to do it. I was kind of disappointed, that would've been my first one ever. That would've been special, but it's all right."

McMahan would have been the first Timber Rattler ever to hit for the cycle. Even after the strikeout in his final at bat, however, he entered play tonight hitting .459/.487/.811 in his last ten games.

"I'm just getting a little more comfortable in the box," McMahan said. "Early on I was kind of pressing a bit, trying to do too much at the plate, and I kind of just slowed myself down a bit, tried to relax as much as possible and really not to do too much. It's been working out. I'm seeing the ball way better."

McMahan said it's "awesome" to be on a team that's won nine of their last ten games, and noted that he and many of his teammates came up from rookie ball together.

"This is a great team we have. Really good chemistry," McMahan said. "A lot of guys moved up together from Helena last year, so everybody's pretty tight-knit. The chemistry is really great in the locker room, and it's fun to be a part of."

Through five innings tonight McMahan was 1-for-2 with a single.

RBI Rogers

The #3 hitter in Wisconsin's lineup tonight is first baseman Jason Rogers, who is on quite a tear lately. Rogers drove in four of the Timber Rattlers' eight runs last night, and leads the Brewer organization with 24 RBI this season.

"That's really probably my biggest thing is really driving in runs. Especially when the people in front of me get on base, just trying to do my job," Rogers said.

Rogers drove in ten runs over Wisconsin's first 20 games, but has added 14 more to his total over the last ten. He says nothing has changed over that time. "Just trying to be consistent, working on driving the ball, really," Rogers said. "Not trying to do too much, getting in good hitters' counts and when the guys in front of me get on base trying to drive them in."

Rogers' hot streak coincides with a stretch where Wisconsin has won nine of their last ten games. He says this team has been fun to be around during the streak.

"It's great. Great chemistry in the clubhouse, great atmosphere from the fans, everything. It's just exciting," Rogers said.

Introducing Sprinkles the spider

Sprinkles is a tarantula Wisconsin trainer Jeff Paxson purchased during the team's most recent road trip to Clinton. This raised the obvious question: What inspires one to buy a tarantula on the road?

"We couldn't find scorpions," Paxson said.

"There's a thing going around, we were trying to find some motivation. I was going to get some scorpions, and then if we get to the playoffs, Matty (manager Matt Erickson) would eat the scorpions in front of the team with the stingers taken out," Paxson said. "But we have not been able to find scorpions."

With his search for a scorpion meeting no success, Paxson checked out a local pet store on the team's last morning in Clinton.

"One day I checked out early so the kids could have some extra room, so I'm sitting on the bus," Paxson said. "I walked up to the pet store to kill some time and they didn't have scorpions either, but they had a tarantula, and the guy gave me a deal on it."

Before you worry, rest assured Erickson does not plan to eat the giant spider. The team has taken to it. "Everybody checks in on it daily," Paxson said.

"Dusty (hitting coach Dusty Rhodes) wants to name it Homer, but we decided to name it Sprinkles. Sprinkles has an egg sac, so she can't be a guy," Paxson said.

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