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Midwest League: Cougars patch together a shutout

Updated: August 27, 2012 11:08PM

With injuries and roster changes, the Kane County Cougars pitching staff is mostly a patchwork affair these days. Just don’t tell them that.

Pitching in all phases has been by committee lately, but three games into a four-game series with Burlington it seems like the Cougars pitching has been up to the task. Led by four solid innings of relief by winning pitcher Kellen Moen, three Cougars pitchers combined on an eight-hitter and a 4-0 shutout Monday night.

The shutout was the sixth of the year for the Cougars (32-31), and it moved them within two games of Burlington (34-29) for the Western Division wild card. A win in tonight’s series finale would put Kane County one back with six games to play.

“They did a great job,” Cougars manager Buck Buchanan said. “Brownie (Rudy Brown) gave us everything he had, and they all pitched great. It was a well-played game on our part.”

Brown, starting his first game after 23 appearances out of the bullpen, took the ball to start the game and ground his way through three innings and 67 pitches, allowing four hits and striking out six. Moen struck out four and gave up four hits in his stint, then Andrew Triggs closed out the game to earn his fourth save.

Moen (4-10) earned his first win in the season’s second half and has now allowed just two earned runs in his last six appearances (10 2/3 innings). He worked out of two big jams in his final two innings when he had runners on third but was able to get back to the dugout with the shutout intact.

“It was a full bullpen win, that was exciting,” Moen said. “They weren’t swinging (when Brown was in), they were taking a lot of pitches. When I came in I just wanted to get them swinging, so I threw a lot of fastballs early and later on I got some strikeouts. We sped the game up and they started swinging like they normally did because they are super aggressive.”

The Cougars touched Bees starter Drew Granier (11-9) for two runs in the first, and that was it as the starter for the Western Division in this season’s Midwest League All-Star game found a groove. After Mike Antonio gave the Cougars the lead with a two-run double, the right-hander settled in and only gave up one more hit over the next five innings while striking out nine.

“He’s one of the better pitchers in the league, numbers-wise,” Buchanan said. “We seem to see the ball OK off of him, and Antonio got that big double in the first inning. We got some key hits when we needed them and that is the key to the game.”

After Granier left the game, Tim Ferguson made it a 3-0 game when he doubled home Chris Elder in the seventh, and Jack Lopez used his legs to earn a run in the eighth, reaching on a single before stealing second and third and scoring the final run on a throwing error by catcher Nick Rickles.

Tuesday’s game will start at 6:30 as Kyle Smith (4-2) will make the start for the Cougars.

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