CEDAR RAPIDS — So you’re saying there’s a chance.
Somehow, someway the Cedar Rapids Kernels have found themselves with an opportunity to earn a Midwest League playoff spot here in the first half. Believe it or not.
A 4-1 win Tuesday night over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium coupled with a Burlington loss moved Cedar Rapids within a single game of the Bees for second place in the Western Division. Quad Cities has won the division, but that wildcard playoff berth is now totally up for grabs.
There are five first-half games remaining for everyone. Cedar Rapids hosts Wisconsin again Wednesday at noon.
Burlington is at Kane County.
“We have to control what we can control,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman. “We have to have a little bit of help here to get in. The day is over, you see what happened, then you go to the next day ready to play.”
The Kernels have been a rather uneven club most of these first two months but have gotten hot at the right time. They have won 10 of their last 13 to get to a season-high five games over .500 at 35-30.
“Our pitching has been pretty consistent all year, but our hitting has come around the last five weeks or so,” Dinkelman said. “We are starting to swing the bats well. Putting together good at-bats, hitting balls hard. Driving guys in when you get them on base. Tonight we had a great pitching performance and had a couple of home runs there.”
Starter Austin Schulfer (5-3) went a career-high six innings, allowing just one hit to get the win. Carlos Suniaga and Derek Molina finished things up, with Molina picking up his eighth save.
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As Dinkelman mentioned, the offense has improved, which has keyed this push. Gabe Snyder homered to tie this one at 1-1 in the fifth, Jared Akins homered in the sixth to put C.R. up, 2-1, then Snyder put things away with a two-run homer in the seventh.
Snyder didn’t begin this season with the Kernels, joining the club from Minnesota Twins extended spring training a week and a half into the season. Yet here he is with a .281 batting average and a selection to play next week in the Midwest League All-Star Game.
“We’re right there. We’re trying to push it right now, see what we can get,” Snyder said. “See if we can get that early playoff spot.
“I think we’re just being looser together, being free. Having fun. Just trying to get our pitches and attack them. We’ve been doing a good job of that. The coaches are giving us a lot of good information. We can just go off of that.”
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