Quad Cities River Bandits right-handers Mark Appel, Jamaine Cotton and Patrick Christensen combined to allow one run on four hits to the Burlington Bees, and Rio Ruiz and Roberto Pena each homered in a 5-1 victory that clinched the team a playoff berth Sunday afternoon at Community Field.
Quad Cities (37-24 second half, 75-55 overall) won its fourth straight game to become the first Midwest League team to clinch a second-half playoff berth. The River Bandits will open the postseason Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Modern Woodmen Park against either Cedar Rapids or Beloit - both first-half qualifiers. With a loss by Clinton (31-31, 64-67) Sunday in Beloit, any combination of Quad Cities wins and Clinton losses adding to two will seal a first-round match-up for the River Bandits with Cedar Rapids (42-20, 82-48).
As they did in Saturday's series opener, the River Bandits took a first-inning lead. Second baseman Tony Kemp drew a leadoff walk against left-hander Tyler DeLoach (5-5), and shortstop Carlos Correa drilled an RBI double over right fielder Julio Concepcion.
Appel (3-1) allowed the Bees' only run in the bottom of the first inning, as shortstop Angel Rosa singled off the glove of first baseman Bobby Borchering and scored on Bees first baseman Wade Hinkle's two-out double to left field. Appel worked around a pair of second-inning walks by getting a ground-ball double play and responded to lone baserunners each of the next three innings with inning-ending strikeouts. He finished five innings for the third time this season while allowing four hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
The score remained 1-1 until one out in the top of the fourth inning, when Ruiz lifted a fly ball over the left-center field fence for his 11th home run and a 2-1 lead. Two batters later, Pena hit his fifth home run over the left-field fence to make it 3-1. Quad Cities extended the lead in the fifth inning, as center fielder Teoscar Hernandez hit a one-out single and went to third base on a two-out single by left fielder Danry Vasquez. When Rosa tried to catch Vasquez rounding first base, the ball got away, allowing Hernandez to score. Borchering then greeted right-hander Andres Perez with a popup that dropped between the pitcher's mound and home plate, allowing Vasquez to score.
The Bees were hitless following a fifth-inning leadoff single by catcher Sandy Martinez. Cotton started the sixth with a 5-1 lead and set down the first six batters he faced. An eighth-inning leadoff walk was all that kept him from three perfect innings. Christensen struck out the first and last batters in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to seal Quad Cities' first playoff berth since 2011 - the year of the franchise's fifth Midwest League Championship. The River Bandits have made the playoffs four of seven seasons as a Houston Astros affiliate.
Quad Cities continues its series in Burlington at 6:30 p.m. Monday. River Bandits left-hander Josh Hader (2-0) will start against Bees left-hander Ryan Crowley (5-4).