CEDAR RAPIDS — So this is where they’re at right now.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels have to go to Davenport and win twice. They have to somehow find a way to get past a pitcher who absolutely owned them last week in a regular-season game.
They must play better defense and swing the bats better than they did here. It’d help to get a break or two.
Succinctly put, they are in season survival mode. A 4-1 loss Wednesday night to Quad Cities in Game 1 of this best-of-3 Midwest League playoff series means Cedar Rapids has zero margin for error.
Game 2 is Thursday night at Modern Woodmen Park.
“Come out tomorrow like we did today, keep hitting the ball and just trust the process,” said Kernels first baseman Gabe Snyder. “Don’t let it get in our heads too much. Try and have fun out there.”
This game was not much fun, thank to starting pitcher Valente Bellozo, who threw expertly for Quad Cities. The 19-year-old from Mexico mixed his pitches, throwing them all for strikes.
He gave up just four hits in six innings, with Ryan Webb’s solo home run in the third inning the only blemish against him.
“Webb hit that home run, but, other than that, we didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on them,” said Kernels Manager Brian Dinkelman.
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“The Astros organization does a good job of mixing it up in any count,” Snyder said. “I don’t care if it’s 3-0, 2-1, they are going to throw whatever pitch they think is the best pitch for that pitcher. They mix it up a lot, throw a lot of curveballs. It just makes it tough on the hitter.”
Kernels starter Luis Rijo gave his team a chance but didn’t get much good fortune. QC got a run in the second when Alex McKenna reached on a swinging bunt down the third-base line, stole second, went to third on an errant throw by catcher Chris Williams and scored on a two-out wild pitch.
McKenna scored what turned out to be the winning run in the fifth on a Ramiro Rodriguez sacrifice fly to left, though it appeared he might have left third base on the tag before Webb caught the Rodriguez ball. The Kernels appealed the play to plate umpire A.J. Choc to no avail.
“We thought so, which is why we appealed over there,” Dinkelman said. “It looked like he left a little early, but the call didn’t go our way.”
Quad Cities scored a pair of insurance runs against reliever Jose Martinez in the eighth. The River Bandits will send pitcher Brett Daniels to the mound Thursday, who allowed just one hit in six shutout innings last Wednesday, striking out 11.
Matt Canterino opposed him that night, giving up one hit and no runs in five innings. He’ll get the ball for C.R.
“That was a well-pitched game, so I’m sure we’ll see the same thing tomorrow,” Dinkelman said. “The last (regular-season) series we played against them last week, they were all tight games, one-run games. I’m sure we’ll see that again tomorrow. Hopefully we can put a few more runners on base and get a big hit from somebody.”
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