CEDAR RAPIDS — Not a good time for the Cedar Rapids Kernels to go on a losing streak. Is there ever really a good time?
The Kernels dropped their fourth in a row Saturday night, to Beloit, 5-3, at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
This club built the Midwest League’s best second-half record and still owns it at 27-15, but their lead in the Western Division has been shaved to nothing. In fact, Peoria could have moved percentage points up, depending on the result of its game late Saturday night, with Beloit but a game back, for certain.
If you’re looking for a positive, the Kernels are still a solid 6 1/2 games ahead of Kane County and Wisconsin for a playoff spot. The top two teams in the division earn those, minus Peoria and Quad Cities, who cinched qualification in the first half.
At any rate, there’s still a month to go in this thing, thus plenty of time for Cedar Rapids to turn it back around. Though they’ve lost some guys recently to injury and promotion (always the top goal in minor league baseball), it’d be pretty surprising if this group isn’t in the playoffs come early September.
The roster remains plenty good enough.
“The one game we got beat pretty good (by Peoria), but the other three, we’ve been right in,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “It’s not like we’re not having chances. We’re just not making things happen. Just not getting the runs when we need them.”
Beloit got a go-ahead two-run home run over the porch in left by Jesus Lage and never trailed after that in this one. It continued a perplexing pattern of late for starting pitcher Jordan Balazovic, who has been hurt in his last three starts by early game damage.
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Balazovic (5-3) rebounded and pitched through the sixth but still took the loss. On the other side of things, Beloit’s Ivan Andueza (2-8) picked up just his second victory of the season, also working his way through six.
The Kernels nicked him early for five hits and three runs, including three extra-base hits in the first, but got just one other hit against the lefty in his final three innings.
“Losing’s never fun, I’ll tell you that,” Gardenhire said. “But we’re still playing good ball, still playing good ballgames.”
At least newcomer Ryan Jeffers continues to rake. The catcher, a second-round pick of the parent Minnesota Twins in June, went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and walk and is a torrid 13 for his last 22 at bat.
Jeffers joined the Kernels from Rookie-level Elizabethton in late July. He hit a measly .422 in 28 games in Rookie ball.
These teams play again Sunday afternoon at 2:05.
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