Quad Cities (41-25, 75-59) took advantage of losses by Kane County and Beloit to take a 3.5-game lead in the Western Division with just three games to play, and will host the Cougars in game one of the Midwest League playoffs' opening round at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday night at John O'Donnell Stadium. Burlington (27-40, 62-72) could not stop the Swing from winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, as the Bees dropped 15 games out of first place with the loss.
Burlington starter Luke Hochevar had allowed just one unearned run on four hits through his first three professional starts (9.1 innings) in the affiliated minor leagues, but the red-hot Swing were determined to be the first to get to him. After the contest, Hochevar was promoted to Double-A to aid the Wichita Wranglers as they head towards the Texas League playoffs.
It was the top of the second inning when Quad Cities got on the board thanks to a pair of longballs. Tyler Greene opened the frame by driving the first pitch he saw over the billboards in left field for his 14th bomb and his 43rd RBI in 56 games with the Swing. Two batters later Jose Martinez blasted a one-out bomb of his own to left, checking in with his eighth home run of the year to give the Swing a 2-0 advantage.
Burlington threatened in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases thanks to an error, a walk, and a flare single that dropped inside the right field line. But Tyler Norrick was up to the task, striking out Eduardo Nunez on a full-count pitch before inducing a pop-out to right on his first offering to Jose Duarte to get out of the jam.
The Bees got on the board in the eighth inning, cutting the lead to 2-1. Nunez led off the frame with a double off the wall in right field, but was standing at third base two outs later. Mario Lisson took care of that, however, unloading on a fly ball deep to center that carried over Jon Jay's head for a run-scoring double.
After Lisson's two-base hit, Swing manager Keith Mitchell went to his ace closer early. Chris Perez (12) struck out Brady Everett to end the eighth inning before notching a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his 12th save in as many professional chances while locking up the second-half division title.
Norrick (2-2) turned in what was arguably his strongest start with Quad Cities, striking out seven while allowing just two hits over six impressive innings of work. Despite issuing three walks his fastball was working all night long, as the native of Festus, Missouri, worked out of a tough bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning before finishing strong with a pair of strikeouts to end the sixth.
Hochevar (0-1) tossed another strong outing despite the loss, setting career-highs with six strikeouts and six innings pitched without issuing a walk. After allowing the two solo home runs and four hits through the first three innings, the Kansas City Royals' prospect settled down to hold the Swing hitless over his final three innings of work.
UP NEXT: The Swing will continue their home-and-home series against the Burlington Bees on Friday night at Community Field, as LHP Adam Daniels (7-11, 3.19) will take the mound opposite RHP Dan Cortes (1-2, 6.53). First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and coverage on Progressive Talk AM-1270 will begin at 6:45 p.m.
NEXT HOMESTAND: The Swing will wrap up the regular season with two home games against Burlington on Sunday and Monday before opening the 2006 post-season with a home game on Wednesday.