GENEVA – Reliever Stephen Perakslis dubbed Tuesday’s all-bullpen pitching effort a successful turn of “Johnny Wholestaff” while standing outside the Cougars’ clubhouse Wednesday.
Such morning-after eloquence can leave a mark, but this club would just as soon keep quipping. And winning.
Showing no residual flatness from a 13-run loss at Peoria earlier this week, the Cougars secured their second straight victory against Wisconsin with Wednesday’s 6-3 matinee rally. They credit those results to the clean slate they try to embrace each day they walk in the clubhouse.
“What happened in Peoria, that was kind of a big hiccup, but you let it go,” Perakslis said. “Let go of what happened in the first half. Let go of what happened early in the second half. You’ve just got to let go and make the transformation and hope things fall our way.”
A streak of seven victories in 11 games suddenly leaves the Cougars with faint but growing dreams of the Midwest League playoffs. Cue Jim Mora, not Albert Almora.
Kane County (41-62 overall, 12-25 second half) entered play Wednesday trailing Beloit by 81/2 games for the Western Division’s final second-half playoff spot.
Scoreboard watching is futile at this point, which plays right into the hands of a team looking inward during a stretch run that’s starting to look up.
“Just coming to the field daily and being positive and just really grinding out, trying to get better every day at something,” manager Mark Johnson said. “You go over what you did wrong the day before and you address it and you learn from it, but that’s it. You’re done with it.
“Just like you try to teach these guys to forget the [at-bats] and go play defense, it’s kind of the same thing. It takes time and it takes experience to be able to do it … and I think they’re maturing in that sense to some degree.”
Wisconsin (44-59, 15-23) looked primed to capitalize on four Cougars errors before the bats awoke.
Until the sixth inning, Timber Rattlers starter Tyler Wagner limited the Cougars to Gioskar Amaya’s leadoff single in the first, using a two-seam fastball he commanded on the outer half against right-handed hitters.
Amaya delivered a double to open the sixth and scored on an Almora groundout, cutting Wisconsin’s lead to 2-1. Rock Shoulders’ double tied the game three batters later.
Shoulders provided the knockout blow – and the final margin – with a solo home run in the eighth, the second leg of back-to-back homers against loser Harvey Martin. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario, batting .228 in the second half entering the game, pulled a two-strike Martin curveball to right for a go-ahead, two-run shot.
“Every player struggles, you know. I’ll just keep working hard, working hard, and things are going to happen,” Candelario said. “Because I’m doing a pretty good job swinging at the ball. You’re going to get more good [results].”
Sounds like perseverance, the theme in the clubhouse lately. The next chance to act on it comes when the series resumes today.