There was a nice breeze Monday afternoon on the banks of the Mississippi River and the Quad-Cities River Bandits did their part to contribute to it.
Quad-Cities batters struck out a season-high 18 times in a 4-3 Midwest League loss to Wisconsin, including 10 times over the final four innings as they attempted to chip away at the Timber Rattlers' lead.
Eight of the 12 runners the River Bandits left on base were stranded in scoring position and in addition to disappointing the kid-filled crowd of 5,028 - the largest of the season at Modern Woodmen Park - the effort drew the ire of manager Johnny Rodriguez.
"Their pitchers did not show me an out pitch. We didn't have the right offensive approach at all," Rodriguez said. "We didn't use the middle of the field. We got pull happy. It was hard to watch."
At least Rodriguez had company from his viewing vantage in the third-base coach's box.
Quad-Cities had runners on third with one out in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings but mustered just two runs.
"Opportunities were there all day. We couldn't make the most of them, and that is what is frustrating," said Nick Longmire, who collected a pair of doubles but struck out with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
The River Bandits played from behind almost from the onset. Mike Walker and Chris Dennis delivered back-to-back homers in the top of the first inning to give the Timber Rattlers a 3-0 edge.
Longmire cut the lead to 4-2 in the sixth with a run-scoring double, but as was the case in the eighth inning, Quad-Cities stranded runners on second and third.
Yunier Castillo opened the seventh with a triple and scored on a passed ball in the seventh to pull the River Bandits within a run.
After a pair of Wisconsin pitchers walked the bases full with one out, the Rattlers gave the ball to Tyler Cravy, who came in and struck out Kyle Conley and Longmire to end the threat.
"We had enough chances, but we didn't put any pressure on their defense at all," Rodriguez said. "Your job as a professional is to shorten your swing with two strikes, work the middle of the field, put the ball in play, and we didn't do that. They were giving us runs and we didn't take them."
Score: Wisconsin 4, Quad-Cities 3
K COUNT: Wisconsin pitcher Austin Ross, an eighth-round pick of the Brewers in the 2010 draft from LSU, continued his early-season dominance of the Midwest League as he improved to 3-0.
In his 51/3 innings Monday, Ross struck out nine and scattered four hits, extending a string which has seen him work at least five innings in each of his five starts. Right-handers are hitting .148 against Ross, while left-handers are hitting .146.
The Timber Rattlers used six pitchers Monday, but Ross and reliever Tyler Cravy combined for 15 of the 18 strikeouts recorded by Wisconsin pitchers.
RELIEF EFFORT: Quad-Cities relievers Angel De Jesus and Keith Butler delivered four innings of two-hit baseball Monday, keeping the River Bandits within striking distance. The pair combined to strike out five Timber Rattlers and neither walked a batter.
QUOTEBOOK: "He's been mashing against us. He's had a couple of homers and is showing what he can do.'' - River Bandits outfielder Nick Longmire, referring to his former Pacific teammate Mike Walker, a Wisconsin infielder who belted a two-run homer vs. the River Bandits on Monday
SCORE IT: From the something you don't see every day department, the Timber Rattlers' Tony Pechek advanced teammate Carlos George with a 1-4-3 sacrifice in the fourth inning.
The grounder glanced off the glove of pitcher Zach Russell and was scooped up by second baseman Greg Garcia who threw to Jonathan Rodriguez at first to complete the rare sacrifice.
READ ON: Monday's matinee attracted more than 3,500 participants in the River Bandits' Book Buddies program.
The program rewards elementary and junior high students from throughout the Quad-Cities region for reading books. Prizes are awarded as readers reach each base around a baseball diamond. Students who make it all the way to home plate earn the chance to attend a River Bandits game.
ON DECK: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Quad-Cities River Bandits, 7 p.m. today, Modern Woodmen Park. Probable pitchers: Wisconsin, Tyler Thornburg (0-0, 3.46 ERA); Quad-Cities, Trevor Rosenthal (1-2, 2.78).