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CEDAR RAPIDS — His pitching coach has taken to calling him Hu-dini. It fits.
Hu’s the man for the Cedar Rapids Kernels? Why, yes, he has been.
“The guy’s a pitcher, there’s no doubt about that,” Manager Jake Mauer said Monday night, after Chih-Wei Hu’s latest strong start lifted the Kernels to a 4-2 win over Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “He can sink it, move it. He had a bunch of strikeouts again tonight, but he’s a guy that’s going to get the groundballs. He has been really, really good.”
As in 6-1 record, 2.20 earned run average good since coming to town from Rookie ball in early July. The 20-year-old right-hander from Taiwan doesn’t overpower a soul, but every pitch has movement, and he usually can command that movement.
It’s a fastball here, a curveball there. He even offers a palmball, an offspeed pitch not many guys seem to have in their arsenals these days.
Hu gave up three hits and an unearned run to QC in six innings, striking out eight.
“Tonight, the breaking ball was very nice,” said Hu, whose English skills are still evolving but definitely improving. “The palmball, very nice. The changeup, very nice. The slider, pretty nice.”
Hu has made seven starts for the Kernels (66-60, 35-21), and six have been beauties. He piggyback relieved Kohl Stewart in the first-round pick’s return to the rotation last week and threw five shutout innings for a win.
There has been but one subpar outing, that in his start previous to Monday, in which he gave up eight hits and six runs over four innings. It bothered the heck out of him.
“He was really worried about that start. You could tell,” Mauer said. “He was in here the next day wanting to look at film and talk to (pitching coach) Ivan (Arteaga). He takes his job very seriously.”
“Surprised? No,” he said, when asked if his numbers here have been more than he expected. “You know, it’s baseball … I don’t think a lot. Hu is starting today, OK. I don’t feel scared. I pitch, just pitch. I’m 20 years old, I don’t care.”
The Kernels won for the seventh straight time, scoring twice in the second inning on a Logan Wade two-out RBI double and J.D. Williams run-scoring triple. Brandon Bixler and Dallas Gallant finished things off for Hu in a game that featured zero walks.
Cedar Rapids still remains a game behind Kane County (which has won eight in a row) for first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division. It has a serious stranglehold on securing a second-half playoff spot, moving six games up on third-place Wisconsin and eight up on fourth-place Peoria.
The teams play again Tuesday night at 6:35, with Stewart scheduled to make the start for the Kernels.
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