CEDAR RAPIDS — In his mind, he was a full-out sprinting go.
But in his legs, that was a different story for Ben Rodriguez. Those were getting way heavy as he rounded third base in the sixth inning Thursday night.
“It took me an inning and a half to get my breath back,” the Cedar Rapids Kernels designated hitter said, after his two-run, inside-the-park home run proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win Thursday night over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium in the Midwest League second-half opener.
Rodriguez is one big guy, measured at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, so it’s understable that it appeared he wasn’t ever going to make it to the plate. Not without an oxygen mask, at least.
With two outs and Jose Miranda on second, Rodriguez hit an opposite-field drive that carried over the head of Wisconsin right fielder Tristen Lutz and off the wall. Lutz’s head and body also went hard off the wall, and he stayed down on the warning track, shaken up.
By the time, center fielder Zach Clark to run over and pick up the ball, Rodriguez was hitting third. Manager Toby Gardenhire waved him around, and he rumbled, stumbled and fumbled his way to the plate, sliding home safely.
“Saw a bunch of pitches, a bunch of pitches,” Rodriguez said. “He went up and away with a fastball, and I hit it and knew I got enough of it. I knew it was going to be over his head, so I put my head down and took off running. I felt like I was going to be able to get a triple.
“But once I got to third base, and Toby was waving me, I was very surprised. I kicked it into as much gear as I could and gave it everything I had to get there.”
Heck of a way for him to get fourth homer of the season.
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“I heard the story afterward,” he said, about not seeing Lutz hitting the fence. “I just knew something crazy must have happened if I was getting waved around.”
An uplifting victory for the Kernels (33-37 overall), who also got a three-run home run off the very bottom of the foul pole from Royce Lewis in the third inning. Lewis went 2-for-4, remaining in Cedar Rapids despite some rumors to the contrary.
As expected, the Kernels and parent Minnesota Twins announced outfielder Alex Kirilloff’s promotion to high-Class A Fort Myers prior to Thursday’s game. He hit .333 here and led the MWL with 13 homers and 56 RBIs.
Rodriguez came off the disabled list to replace Kirilloff on the active roster. The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.
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