It was tough to tell that the Clinton LumberKings team that took the field Tuesday night still had plenty for which to play.
Still battling for a first-half playoff spot in the Midwest League’s West Division, the LumberKings’ chances were dealt a serious blow with an 8-1 loss to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Alliant Energy Field.
The third consecutive loss for Clinton dropped it four games behind second-place Quad Cities — 6-1 winners Tuesday night over Kane County — with five games to play in the first half.
“I thought we’d come out more ready to play today as a team,” Clinton third baseman Vinnie Catricala said. “We had an off day (Monday), but we looked a little flat, including myself. We just have to come back out here and try to win them all.”
The LumberKings (35-29) continue their three-game series against Wisconsin today and finish the first half on the road for three games at Beloit. They need to win all five games and have Quad Cities lose because the River Bandits hold the tiebreaker advantage.
It wasn’t that long ago it looked as if Clinton might catch Quad Cities for second place in the division to earn the first-half wild-card spot.
The LumberKings won three of their first four on this nine-game homestand but since have lost the past three.
“We were very flat today,” Clinton manager John Tamargo said. “You have young kids who maybe don’t know how to turn it on and off. Sometimes you can’t get it turned on.
“In the situation we’re in, we just went out flat today. That’s unacceptable.”
Clinton’s offense, in particular, has struggled in recent losses, scoring only seven runs in the three games.
Wisconsin pitcher Maverick Lasker held the LumberKings to five hits in seven innings. He struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Clinton’s only run came on an RBI groundout by backup catcher Henry Contreras in the second inning. That run, however, gave it a 1-0 lead.
Starter Taylor Stanton was perfect through four inning for the LumberKings, but it started to unravel in the fifth when he gave up four consecutive hits to start the inning.
Wisconsin tied it in that inning, then scored three runs off Stanton in the sixth for a 4-1 lead. Cameron Garfield doubled in a run and an RBI single by Connor Dykstra chased Stanton, who slipped to 6-3 this season.
“He (Stanton) threw well and was throwing strikes, but he fell behind (batters) in that fifth inning,” Tamargo said. “He was maybe trying to be too fine and gave it up.”
The Timber Rattlers added three runs in the eighth and got a solo home run by Scooter Gennett in the ninth for the final margin.
Catricala did extend his hitting streak to eight games with a double in the eighth, but the highlights for Clinton certainly were few.