DAVENPORT — Saturday proved to be a night of firsts for the Quad Cities River Bandits.
Catcher C.J. Stubbs’ first Midwest League hit left Modern Woodmen Park, a three-run blast in bottom of the fifth inning that proved to be the difference in Quad Cities’ 4-1 victory over Cedar Rapids.
River Bandits newcomer Valente Bellozo then finished off the Kernels in his first full-season outing, striking out five Kernels and giving up two hits over four innings to complete the four-hit effort started by Jose Bravo.
“Bellozo is a guy who is going to pound the zone with four pitches and in the sixth, I could tell he was nervous,’’ said Stubbs, who caught Bellozo at Tri-City before both were promoted. “I told him just to be himself and he came back out and he was nails.’’
After working around a one-out single in his first inning, the19-year-old right hander struck out the side in the seventh and didn’t allow another baserunner until Gilberto Celestino singled with two outs in the ninth.
Playing in his second game for Quad Cities, Stubbs labeled his homer “well timed.’’
That’s nothing new.
The Astros 10th-round choice in the June draft also homered in his first professional at-bat for short-season Tri-City earlier this year.
“It was a 2-0 count and I felt like (Kernels starter Tyler Palm) was going to challenge me, a new guy who without a hit here. Why not?’’ Stubbs said. “He left a fastball up and I was able to put it over the wall. It was good to make a difference in a tie-game like that.’’
Bravo allowed just two hits over a five-inning start, the first a game-opening home run by the Kernels’ Spencer Steer to left.
The Quad Cities right hander allowed only two more baserunners and didn’t give up another hit until Yunior Severino doubled with one out in the fifth.
By then, the River Bandits had tied the game.
Wilyer Abreu collected Quad Cities’ first hit of the night with one out in the bottom of the fourth, driving a line-hugging triple into the corner in right.
Grae Kessinger followed by sending a single into center beyond the reach of shortstop Daniel Ozoria, positioning the River Bandits to move ahead an inning later in the first of a string of late-season games between two teams that will see a lot of each other in the next three weeks.
The Western Division’s two first-half playoff qualifiers will meet seven times over the final 17 games of the regular season before meeting in the best-of-three opening round of postseason play beginning Sept. 4 in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m sure they’re anxious to get a look at our guys and we’ll get a look at where they’re at now,’’ Quad Cities manager Ray Hernandez said.
Before opening the four-game series on Saturday, the River Bandits and Kernels last met on July 8 but Hernandez was off for that series and was catching his first glimpse of Cedar Rapids since May 15.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other, but I know at least our roster has changed quite a bit since then,’’ Hernandez said. “We’ll pay attention to what they’re doing, but right now I’m still learning about what our new guys are doing and what they’re all about, how they can help us.’’
Stubbs and Bellozo provided Hernandez with some idea on Saturday night.
Roster move: Off to a 6-0 start with a 1.39 ERA in 11 games in the New York-Penn League, pitcher Valente Bellozo joined Quad Cities on Saturday from Tri-City.
The 19-year-old right hander from Mexico struck out 58 batters in 45.1 innings of work in the short-season league.
He takes the roster spot of Abdiel Saldana, who is returning to high-A Fayetteville where he spent much of the season on the injured list. Working his way back with outings in the Gulf Coast League and at Tri-City, Saldana went 2-1 with a 0.47 ERA for the River Bandits this season.
On the mend: Minnesota Twins outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. went 0-for-3 as he began a rehab stint with Cedar Rapids on Saturday.
A 2016 Midwest League all-star with the Kernels, Wade suffered a dislocated thumb when he collided with the outfield wall at Target Field during a July 6 game against Texas. He spent time in the Gulf Coast League before being reassigned to Cedar Rapids.
Fresh plate: A new home plate was installed for use for Saturday night’s game at Modern Woodmen Park.
The rubber on the edge of the previous plate began to peel away from the edge during Friday’s game against Beloit.
On deck: Cedar Rapids at Quad Cities, 5:15 p.m., today. Probable pitchers: Cedar Rapids, Andrew Cabezas (5-6, 3.77 ERA); Quad Cities, Brett Daniels (5-6, 1.97)