116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Kernels actually lost a series. Can you believe it?
They dropped four of six games this week at home to Lake County, though they did pick up a 6-1 victory Sunday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It took a month and a half of Midwest League play for a series loss to happen. That’s six six-game series and a three-gamer.
That’s a sign of the quality baseball the team has played. After Monday’s off day, the Kernels begin a six-game home series against Wisconsin, which is one game behind them for first place in the Western Division.
“We’ve gotten off to a good start,” Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman said. “This being the first series that we’ve lost shows how well the guys have been playing, pitching and hitting. A tough week, but we were able to get a win today, which was good.”
At the top of the list of things the Kernels (26-13) have done well is that pitching thing.
They lead the MWL with a 2.84 earned run average and .207 opponent batting average and are second in the league in strikeouts, just two behind leader Great Lakes. Pitchers were nicked a bit in this series, though Sunday was more of what has been a stereotypical performance.
Stater Brent Headrick and reliever David Festa combined to give up just six hits and a meaningless ninth-inning run. Festa got the win in his first Cedar Rapids appearance, going the final 4 2/3 innings and striking out six.
The right-hander showed off a mean-looking fastball that sat between 96 and 98 miles per hour most of the way. He was promoted from low-A Fort Myers, where he was pretty much shoving as a member of the Mighty Mussels rotation.
“Shoving” is popular slang in today’s baseball vernacular that essentially means pitching well.
“The pitching has been good,” Dinkelman said. “They’re giving us a chance virtually every night.”
The Kernels offense has been hit or miss thus far (no pun intended), some days good and some days not so much. In this series, hitters struck out 18 times in one game, then produced five home runs in another.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand’s three-run homer in the second inning gave Cedar Rapids a 4-0 lead. He ranks fourth in the Midwest League in batting average (.320) and leads in RBIs (34).
Sunday was his seventh home run, which ranks eighth in the league. The Kernels have a lower team batting average but are second in the Midwest League in runs.
“Some days you’re going to hit, some days you’re not,” Dinkelman said. “Depends on who they’re pitching out there. But our guys are battling, having good approaches, and we’ve been able to win ballgames with some big hits from them, too.”
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