O’FALLON, Mo. — At least one St. Louis-area baseball team got out of town on Sunday with a win. As the Cardinals continue to sputter towards the finish line, the River City Rascals are in a full Usain Bolt-esque sprint. The Rascals (48-42) beat the Normal CornBelters (43-46) 2-1 in their final regular season game at CarShield Field. The win ran the River City winning streak to 11 games and put them 3.5 games ahead of the Washington Wild Things (44-45) for the final wild-card spot.
The Rascals relied on their pitching to finish off the sweep of their fellow Western Divison member. The bats were held relatively quiet, as River City scored fewer runs than in any game during the winning streak to this point. They had averaged 7.6 runs per game over the previous 10 contests and scored 39 runs in the last three days alone.
Starter Zeb Sneed benefited mightily from his week of rest. Sneed had his best outing in at least a month. The big righty went 6.1 innings, scattering four hits, striking out five CornBelters, walking none, and allowing only one unearned run despite three errors by his defense. The Normal run came in the seventh when an error by the River City center fielder Alexi Colon turned a single into a double and allowed a run to score from first. It was the first time since July 29 Sneed has given up only one run in a start, and the first time since July 17 he was not charged an earned run. Sneed ran his record to 8-7 on the year and dropped his ERA back below 4.00 to 3.80.
Rascals closer Zac Treece notched his league-leading 22nd save of the season with a four-out save in which all four outs came by strikeout. Mowing down batters at an unprecedented clip is just another day at the office for Treece, who boasts a 14.079 K/9. That is tops in the Frontier League for any pitcher who has thrown more than nine innings this season.
River City scored all they needed in the fourth inning. After a leadoff walk was erased by a double play, Josh Silver started the two-out rally with a single. Jason Merjano then singled on the first pitch of his second at-bat against Chris Carmain to set the table for Mike Jurgella and Kyle Gadele to follow with RBI-singles that scored Silver and Merjano. Merjano and Josh Ludy were the only Rascals to have two-hit days. Ludy doubled — the only extra-base hit for either team on the day.
The Rascals head east this week for six games on the road to close out the season. River City meets the Florence Freedom (41-48) starting Tuesday for a midweek three-game set. They finish with three games against the Frontier League Playoff’s top seed, the Southern Illinois Miners (59-31), beginning on Friday.
Follow @TimJKaiser on twitter for all your Rascals news throughout the summer.