CEDAR RAPIDS — They had a game over the weekend where they drew 13 walks, had seven hits and somehow scored only four runs. That, folks, is hard to do.
So Manager Toby Gardenhire and hitting coach Brian Dinkelman held a meeting with Cedar Rapids Kernels position players. Their message was this: have a better approach at the plate when you’ve got two strikes, and concentrate a little more when there are runners in scoring position.
The last two games have proven these kids are listening.
The Kernels put together another nice offensive game Wednesday night in a weather-shortened, 5-0 win over South Bend at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The game was halted by rain and lightning with one out in the top of the sixth inning.
“I don’t know. Baseball’s a funny game,” Gardenhire said. “You are going to have your ups and downs. The guys swung it really good the first six games, then we hit kind of a lull where we were striking out, doing a lot of different things wrong. Now we’re swinging it good again. We’re going to have waves, going up and down, especially with these young guys. With a bunch of 19-year-old kids, they are going to have times where they look really good at times and where they look really bad at times.”
They have looked really good the last two nights. A combined no-hitter by pitchers Edwar Colina and Jovani Moran overshadowed a really good offensive performance Monday night in a 10-0 victory over the Cubs.
The Kernels had 15 hits, three home runs and went a passable 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Wednesday night, they have seven hits in five innings and were 4-for-11 with RISP.
Jean Carlos Arias went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs for Cedar Rapids (12-8).
“I think they kind of broke down our numbers, our team strikeout percentage, and we were a little bit above the league average,” said Kernels outfielder Alex Kirilloff. “So as a team, we want to get that down. Honestly, I think that made everyone think a little bit, and I think that kind of played out a little better last night and again tonight. I’d like to see us build on that.”
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This is a lineup with talent and an awful lot of prospects. Kirilloff and Royce Lewis are first-round draft picks, Jose Miranda and Akil Baddoo compensation-round picks, Ben Rortvedt a second-rounder, Andrew Bechtold a fifth-rounder.
But, as Gardenhire said, most of those guys are young and learning how to play pro ball.
“We had an approach talk the other day (because) we had a lot of strikeouts over the weekend in Quad Cities,” he said. “So we had a talk about tightening up our two-strike approach a little bit, getting better with that. And our approach with runners in scoring position, too, because we have not done a very good job of that lately. I think the last couple of games, we’ve done a much better job of swinging at strikes, and we’ve done a much better job with runners in scoring position.
“I’m not going to credit that to the little talk that we had, but I do think the guys are concentrating a lot on it and doing a really good job.”
Tyler Watson (2-1) provided back-to-back strong pitching starts for the Kernels. The left-hander, acquired in a trade from the Washington Nationals last July for big-league reliever Brandon Kintzler, gave up only three hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out six for the win.
The teams are scheduled to conclude their three-game series Thursday night at 6:35.
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