116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — All baseball clubs aim to be as consistent as possible. Duh, right?
Just give yourself a chance to win every night. That’s the goal.
And something the Cedar Rapids Kernels have been doing going on three straight weeks.
A 2-1 win Friday night over Beloit at Veterans Memorial Stadium continued an impressive pattern of competitiveness. Over their last 17 games, the Kernels have a 12-5 record.
Those losses all came in the opposing team’s final at-bat, four in extra innings. Now that is competitive consistency.
“That’s all you can do,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “Ask the guys to go out there and give their best that night, give us a chance to win. They’ve been doing that lately. The pitching staff has kept us in every game, given our bats a chance to do something. As long as you are in the game late, with a chance to win it … Like you said, the last 17 games, that’s pretty good. The boys are playing well and giving us a chance to win a ballgame every night.”
As Dinkelman said, pitching has been the one constant during this “streak.”
Starter Tyler Watson and relievers Tyler Palm and Derek Molina gave the Kernels (39-31) another quality outing here, combining to give up just five hits. Beloit’s only run, against Watson in the third, came when Ricky Aracena blooped a double into left-center field and scored from second base on a flyball off the bat of Connor Scott that Cedar Rapids right fielder Gabriel Maciel caught on the run at the 390-foot sign in right-center.
Maciel mishandled the baseball just long enough as he tried to throw it back to the infield for the speed Aracena to come all the way around on a close play at the plate. That broke a 17 1/3 inning-scoreless streak for left-hander Watson (2-0).
He has pitched out of the bullpen a lot of the season but is now getting a chance to start again, a role he has had most of his six-year pro career.
“It started off where I was out of the zone a lot (with his pitches),” Watson said. “But we worked on it. Just trusting my stuff and throwing it in the zone has been working out.”
Watson doesn’t have elite velocity, generally pitching in the upper-80s, but he’s a southpaw and he’s got some funk to his delivery that tends to hide the baseball. He said he felt behind coming into this season because he had no one to throw to during the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled last minor league season.
“It was more of a quarantine thing, because I had no one to throw to,” he said. “So all quarantine, I was throwing into a net. My bullpens were all into nets. I think it was just getting back into the rhythm of things. These last couple of months, I think I have gotten back to where I left off.”
“He’s done a nice job all season,” Dinkelman said. “Tonight he established his fastball, as he usually does. It felt like tonight his changeup was as good as it has been all season. Kept them off balance, got his outs. A couple of cheap hits that got in there in the outfield and a run scored. But another good outing for Watty.”
Each of the four games in this six-game series have been low scoring and decided by a run. Alex Isola’s two-run single in the bottom of the third inning provided the Kernels with their runs.
The teams play again Saturday night at 6:35.
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