CEDAR RAPIDS — The talk before the start of the second half of the Midwest League season included Manager Toby Gardenhire imploring his Cedar Rapids Kernels to be more aggressive.
If you see an opportunity to take an extra base, go for it. Make the defense make a play to throw you out.
“That’s the biggest thing we’ve been pushing the last couple of days,” Gardenhire said, after his team beat Wisconsin, 3-2, Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “I like to see guys get after it. If we are going to win or lose or whatever, I want to see guys get after it. That’s one thing the last couple of days that they’ve done a good job with.”
As an example, Jean Carlos Arias lined a ball into right-center field to begin the fifth inning and never hesitated trying to stretch what appeared to be a straight single into a hustle double. He was safe, and scored a run.
Catcher David Banuelos lined a ball into right-center field to score Trey Cabbage with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh and motored into second base when Wisconsin’s right fielder misplayed his hit. He’s not the fleetest dude around, but he, too, was safe.
The Kernels (34-37 overall) got strong pitching from starter Bailey Ober and reliever Calvin Faucher to win for the second time in as many second-half games. Ober allowed just three hits and a run, striking out nine over five innings.
Faucher (2-2). finished up with three hitless, scoreless innings to get the win. The three innings tied his career high.
“Just attacking the zone,” Faucher said.
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The right-hander from California-Irvine has been really good for Cedar Rapids, lowering his earned run average to 1.29. He spent three weeks at high-A Fort Myers that weren’t as good, though he was able to work on a cutter that he has continued to try and improve back here.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but they know what they’re doing,” Faucher said, about getting sent back to the Kernels. “Plus, all my draft-year guys are here with me.”
“He’s one of the guys we have a lot of confidence in to give the ball to,” Gardenhire said. “He attacks the zone pretty well. When he does attack the zone, he does well. Tonight he had a couple of guys where he lost his control and walked them, and that’s where he gets in trouble. When he attacks, he’s good.”
Cabbage tripled to the gap with one out in the seventh, which led to the winning run. Arias was the only Kernels player with two hits.
The teams play again Saturday night at 6:35.
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