CEDAR RAPIDS — You either like the extra-inning rules in minor league baseball or you hate them. There’s no real in between.
On one hand, baseball purists abhor that a runner automatically begins on second base in the top and bottom of each extra inning. That’s just wrong.
On the other hand, how cool was it to see Wisconsin’s Chad Whitmer throw just two pitches to start and finish the 10th Thursday night? That’s gotta be some sort of record.
And you gotta admit, this had to be better than playing 18 innings like the Twins and Rays did Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis. This 5-2 loss for the Cedar Rapids Kernels took just 11 innings and under three hours.
“There are pros and cons with it,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “It’s good to help save the bullpen. The Twins had an 18-inning game today and burned up everybody. You play something like 18 innings down here ... this saves guys’ arms. But, at the same time, it’s not the rules you use in the big leagues. It’s a little different for the guys to learn. So, to me, there is some good and bad to it.”
Back to that two-pitch full inning from Whitmer. Daniel Ozoria began on second base for the Kernels in a 2-2 game in the bottom of the 10th but was thrown out trying to advance to third on Jacob Pearson’s grounder to shortstop.
Gabe Snyder followed by lining to third, with Pearson doubled off first. Two pitches, three outs and what turned out to be a win for Whitmer.
Wisconsin got a sacrifice fly from Jesus Lujano in the 11th to go ahead, with Gabriel Garcia eventually adding a two-out, two-run single for the final margin. Tanner Howell took the loss for Cedar Rapids (42-35 overall, 3-4 second half).
This was the Kernels’ first loss in extras this season, as they’d won their first four games that went beyond regulation. It was the first extra-inning game at Veterans Memorial Stadium this season, so public-address guy Andy Pantini had to do a bit of explaining to the crowd.
“It definitely speeds up the game,” said Kernels catcher Chris Williams. “I know in the past, a lot of games dragged on, and people used more pitching than they have. This loss sucks, but it’s our first one in extra innings this season. We’re 4-1 now, a good team. It’s not going to affect us in the long term.”
Another good part of the new rules are that they make pitchers, hitters and defenders execute.
“Yeah, you learn how to bunt a little bit, how to run the bases, try to get guys over from second base,” Dinkelman said. “There is a little small-ball component to it. We’ll learn from tonight and move on.”
Wisconsin tied the game in the eighth, 2-2, when Cedar Rapids right fielder Jared Akins lost a flyball in the dusk that dropped for a run-scoring hit. Wander Javier was thrown out at the plate on an Ozoria two-out single to left in the bottom of the ninth.
The teams play again Friday night at 6:35.
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