CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s a veritable free for all when it comes to grabbing second-half playoff spots in the Midwest League’s Western Division. Just about everyone still has a chance with about four weeks to go in the regular season.
You can’t give away games that you have wrapped up and expect to get in. If the Cedar Rapids Kernels ultimately don’t get in, they can look back at Tuesday night as one of the main reasons.
“You hope that’s not the case, but it very well could be,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said, after his team’s 8-6 loss to Peoria before 2,072 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
A meltdown of pretty epic proportions helped Peoria score six times in the ninth inning and erase a 5-2 deficit. This was team wide, too.
A chopper that third baseman Nelson Molina couldn’t corral cost the Kernels (61-53, 25-20 second half). A flyball to left field that Jaylin Davis couldn’t catch cost as well.
A potential double-play grounder up the middle that shortstop Sean Miller and second baseman Luis Arraez looked at each other instead of fielding was huge. Losing relief pitcher Max Cordy (1-2) had a chance to keep things tied but couldn’t field a two-out, broken-bat comebacker.
That was the coup de grace.
“We just played scared. That’s what I would say,” Mauer said. “Nobody wanted to go make a play, hoped somebody else would do it. I feel bad for Cordy. He made enough pitches to get out of it.
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“We don’t make a play at third, our middle infielders watch each other, I don’t know why we slide in left field on a routine flyball. I don’t know if we’re thinking about the off day (Wednesday) or what. We just played plain scared ... Just routine, average, every day plays. Nobody wants to be the guy to make a play. Can’t get any simpler than that.”
Zander Wiel’s two-run home run put Cedar Rapids on top in the first, 2-0. Starting pitcher Brady Anderson threw six nice innings and looked in line for his first victory.
But Peoria made it 3-2 with a run in the seventh. Then there was the ninth ...
The Kernels did load the bases with none out in the bottom half, but Miller grounded into a fielder’s choice on a 3-1 pitch and Arraez (who had three prior hits) rolled into a game-ending double play.
The Kernels were 4-for-24 with runners in scoring position, Peoria 5-for-16. Cedar Rapids has Wednesday off, then hits the road for a week.
After Tuesday’s game, the Kernels were a game up on Burlington and Quad Cities for second place behind Clinton in the division. Clinton qualified in the first half, so you can discount what it does the rest of the way for playoff purposes.
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