CEDAR RAPIDS — Whittle that magic number some more.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels finished off a four-game sweep of Quad Cities with a 12-2 lambasting Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The River Bandits have all but been eliminated from Midwest League playoff contention.
You can’t really say the Kernels (72-57, 36-24) are in the postseason at this point, but it’d take a pretty big collapse for it not to happen. Cedar Rapids has a magic number of five with 10 regular-season games remaining.
Any combination of Kernels wins and Wisconsin losses to that number, and Cedar Rapids qualifies.
“This would be my first time ever in a run for the playoffs,” said winning Kernels pitcher Lachlan Wells. “I want it more than ever. Those other 24 guys in there want it just as bad as I do. We just keep winning, good things are going to happen.”
The remaining schedule isn’t exactly easy. Four games are upcoming at league-leading Clinton, beginning Friday night, then it’s three games at Wisconsin.
It’s C.R. and Clinton for three at Memorial Stadium to end things next week.
“We’ve got a tough week coming,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “Wisconsin is still in the mix. Obviously Clinton is playing great. It’ll be a good test for us ... We’ll see. We’ll see how we respond. Hopefully we’ll keep the good feelings going. It’s going to be tough the next week or so.”
The Kernels took advantage of some sloppy Q.C. play to build a 9-0 lead after four innings. The River Bandits committed four errors in the game.
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Every starter had at least one hit for Cedar Rapids, with Christian Cavaness and Luis Arraez collecting two apiece. Arraez went 2-for-4 to increase his MWL-leading batting average to .349.
“Very positive,” Mauer said. “We went 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position, which is better than we’ve done all week.”
Wells had a difficult time navigating the strike zone early in his start, walking four the first three innings. But he settled down to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced to improve his record to 6-3.
The 19-year-old Australian allowed just one hit and no runs in his six innings. He has a sparkling 1.94 earned run average in 11 starts since coming to town from extended spring training.
“I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I am now,” Wells said. “Especially being so young and coming out of extended and everything. I’ve just been going out there and doing my thing. Getting outs, trying to hit the strike zone, get one out at a time. Just doing my job.”
If the Kernels keep doing their jobs, they’ll clinch that playoff spot sooner than later.
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