The Clinton LumberKings staved off a late-inning rally by the Burlington Bees to win 5-4 Thursday, setting a new franchise record for wins in a single season.
The LumberKings are now 84-52, the best record in the Midwest League this season. They eclipsed the 83-win total of the 1963 Clinton C-Sox, who were managed by Don Bacon. (I suppose the C-Sox were better with Bacon, as the saying goes.) Five future major-leaguers played on that C-Sox team, but chances are you haven’t heard of any of them (Angel Bravo, Fred Klages, Rich Morales, Rich Severson and Ed Stroud) if you started watching baseball after the mid-1970s.
Clinton’s win helped knock Burlington back a game in the race for the final Western Division playoff spot, as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers beat the Cedar Rapids Kernels 4-1 behind an 11-strikeout performance by pitcher Jordan Yamamoto. The Timber Rattlers now have a two-game lead over the Bees, with four games left in the season.
Meanwhile, the race for the final Eastern Division playoff spot tightened as the Fort Wayne TinCaps beat the Great Lakes Loons 5-4 in 10 innings, the Lansing Lugnuts beat the Bowling Green Hot Rods 3-2, and the Dayton Dragons beat the Lake County Captains 6-2. The Loons have a half-game lead over the Lugnuts, and a 2.5-game lead over the Captains.
The LumberKings, the Kernels and the Peoria Chiefs have already clinched playoff berths in the Western Division, and the Hot Rods, the South Bend Cubs and the West Michigan Whitecaps have done the same in the Eastern Division.