CEDAR RAPIDS — Man, it would have been great to see the Cedar Rapids Kernels make a comeback and tie things up in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night. Just to see how many guys in a row Derek Molina could strike out.
The relief pitcher was the highlight of a game devoid of many of them for the home team in a 7-2 loss to Burlington. He retired all eight Bees he faced, the last six via the ‘K’. This was a pick-me-up outing for a guy who’d struggled in his previous couple of appearances.
Apparently the Midwest League record for most consecutive strikeouts is 10, by the way.
“Based on my last two outings, my mentality was just to throw the ball over the plate and let the action on my ball do the work,” Molina said. “The last time I threw, it was just like I was trying to be too perfect with my placement, and it didn’t work. I was a lot more wild than I usually am. So I just relaxed. Just get where I can with my pitches, throw strikes.”
Molina is making the significant jump from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and adjusting to being a full-time pitcher. He was his conference’s MVP last season as a two-way player (also an infielder) at Merced Community College in California, but the Minnesota Twins took him in the 14th round of last June’s MLB Draft because of his potential on the mound.
Yeah, he misses hitting, but he’s excited to only have to worry about a single position.
“It’s nice to finally focus on one thing,” he said. “I think I just need to focus on staying athletic in my body, just make it easy on myself. Pitching is all about throwing strikes and letting batters get themselves out. I think I’m learning that now.”
Burlington got to starting pitcher Tyler Watson (1-1) for seven hits, five walks and three runs in 3 2/3 innings in a game Cedar Rapids never really seemed to have a chance to win. Andrew Bechtold went 2-for-3 with a walk for the Kernels (8-5), who complete this four-game series and seven-game homestand Thursday night at 6:35.
“It was a tough one for us,” said Kernels Manager Toby Gardenhire. “Watson battled. He didn’t really have his best stuff tonight, we’ve seen better than that. He was battling to kind of find pitches to get over the plate that they weren’t going to be able to hit. He scuffled, but he got through some things. It was just a battle for him, a grind.
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“The momentum was just against us all night. Just one of those nights. They beat us. We could never get the energy on our side.”