The River City Rascals got two hits, and at least one RBI and one run scored from four different players Thursday night at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., to earn a 6-4 victory andd complete a two-game sweep over the fading Gateway Grizzlies.
River City (38-39) also extended its current winning streak to five games and pulled a bit closer to possibly earning one of the Frontier League's four playoff spots.
Gateway (45-33) had boasted the best record in the entire league for most of the season, but a current slide of four losses in its last five games has seen the Grizzlies dip from No. 1 overall in the playoff standings to No. 4 overall as they wake up Friday morning.
If the playoffs began today, Gateway would still be in, but instead of holding the No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Grizzlies would be the fourth and final team to earn a postseason berth, and they would go in as the second wild-card and wouldn't have home-field advantage in any series they played, no matter who they played.
As rough a patch as Gateway is going through right now, River City would still trade spots with the Grizzlies if it could.
But if the Rascals keep winning like they have in their last five games, it won't be long before the two clubs do switch playoff slots.
River City is currently just 6 1/2 games behind Gateway for that final wild-card spot. And with 19 games still to go on the schedule, the Rascals have just under three weeks left to somehow keep winning and possibly earn their fourth trip to the playoffs in the last five years.
On Wednesday, hitters Curran Redal, Danny Canela, Johnny Morales, and Jake Atwell produced eight of River City's nine hits, scored four of the six runs, and earned all six RBIs, to power the Rascal offense.
Canela had the big blow of the night.
It was his three-run bomb in the top of the fifth inning off Gateway starter Tucker Jensen (6-6) that gave River City a lead it would manage to hold the rest of the game.
Canela's two hits raised his season batting average to .356, which would make the former Lee University star the leading hitter in the Frontier League this year, if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
The homer was Canela's 10th of the season, and he also is up to 44 RBIs -- both numbers that rank second on the Rascals club (Phil Wunderlich - 13 HRs, 58 RBIs) -- even though he didn't join River City until a full month into the season.
Redal's RBI single came in the top of the sixth and made the score 5-3 Rascals, but Gateway was able to get one run back
when in the bottom of the seventh, when its first baseman Alex Guthrie blasted his sixth homer of the season over the short-porch wall in right to make it 5-4 River City.
But that was as close as the Grizzlies would get, as the Rascals added an insurance run in the top of the eighth and got shut down relief pitching from Patrick Crider, Nick Kennedy, and closer Gabriel Shaw.
Crider and Kennedy were perfect in a combined two innings of relief, and Shaw picked up his league-leading 20th save of the season by pitching around a hit and a walk in the ninth to close out the game.
Starter Drew Benes (1-2) overcame a shaky start -- the St. Louis native gave up three of Gateway's runs in the first two innings -- to earn his first win as a Rascal, after joining the club in early June.
River City will now head to Chicago for the weekend, where they'll play another crucial series against the Windy City ThunderBolts, the team that currently sits a half-game behind the Rascals in the wild-card standings.
RIVER CITY RASCALS REMAINING SCHEDULE
August 16 at Windy City ThunderBolts ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 17 at Windy City ThunderBolts ............ 6:05 p.m.
August 18 at Windy City ThunderBolts ............ 5:05 p.m.
August 20 vs. Traverse City Beach Bums .......... 7:05 p.m.
August 21 vs. Traverse City Beach Bums .......... 7:05 p.m.
August 22 vs. Traverse City Beach Bums .......... 7:05 p.m.
August 23 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 24 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 25 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 6:05 p.m.
August 27 at Rockford Aviators ........................ 7:05 p.m.
August 28 at Rockford Aviators ........................ 7:05 p.m.
August 29 at Rockford Aviators ........................ 7:05 p.m.
August 30 vs. Southern Illinois Miners ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 31 vs. Southern Illinois Miners ............ 7:05 p.m.
September 1 vs. Southern Illinois Miners ........ 6:05 p.m.
September 3 at Evansville Otters (doubleheader) . 5:35 p.m.
September 4 at Evansville Otters ..................... 10:05 a.m.
September 5 at Evansville Otters ...................... 6:35 p.m.