CEDAR RAPIDS — Tyler Watson looked behind him at the Veterans Memorial Stadium scoreboard at one point Sunday afternoon to check the velocity of a pitch he’d just thrown.
That pitch was a 3-1 fastball. It clocked in at 83 miles per hour.
It’d be an alarming development for most any pitcher, but not him in this case. The pitch was a strike.
“Today, I just took it real light,” Watson said, after he and the Cedar Rapids Kernels moved even closer to a Midwest League playoff spot with a 10-4 win over Kane County. “That one was light.”
It has been an F-word kind of second half for the 21-year-old, acquired by the parent Minnesota Twins from the Washington Nationals in a 2017 trade deadline deal for major league reliever Brandon Kintzler. That’s F, as in frustrating.
Watson hasn’t been consistent in large part because of an inability to command his fastball. Too many walks have haunted.
That primarily changed here, as he went seven innings for the win, one that dropped C.R.’s magic number to 1. One more Kernels win or a loss by Kane County or Beloit, and the Kernels are part of the Midwest League’s postseason for a sixth straight year.
“I went into this game with the approach that the season’s almost over, essentially the damage is done,” Watson said. “The numbers are the numbers. But what we are going to do is compete and go to the playoffs, and that’s what we need to work on. That’s what I need to work on. Getting deep into games, giving my team a chance to win.”
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Watson hit a guy and walked a guy in the first inning, walked two in the third but otherwise was in the strike zone. He gave up just five hits, two runs and struck out eight to improve his record to 5-6 and his earned run average to 4.78.
In each of the lefty’s four previous starts, he’d walked either four or five batters.
“He started throwing strikes,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “The first couple of innings there, he walked a couple of guys, was falling behind in some counts. When he’s had troubles, most of the time that’s what it has been. He falls behind and starts to nibble around the plate.”
The Kernels are a season-best 72-60 overall and 40-23 in the second half. They got a two-run home run from Jacob Pearson as part of a four-run first inning.
Ryan Jeffers and Michael Davis had three hits apiece for C.R., which has won seven of eight, including the first three games of this series. It concludes Monday night at 6:35.
There are seven games remaining in the regular season. Cedar Rapids placed infielder Andrew Bechtold on the disabled list with a concussion before Sunday’s game, adding infielder Victor Tademo to the active roster from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins.
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