Kernels End Losing Streak, Molitor Excited About Prospects
By Jeff Johnson (Writing) and Josh Christensen (Video)
CEDAR RAPIDS – They had no plans to socialize together Sunday night. It was nothing personal, though you could forgive Hudson Boyd if he never wanted to talk to this high-school buddy again.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels pitcher has been absolutely worn out by Dan Vogelbach of the Kane County Cougars in two head-to-head meetings this last week. That will test a friendship.
"We probably won't (go out), but it's not like we're unfriendly toward each other," Boyd said, after the Kernels picked up an 8-4 win to keep a tenuous lead in the Midwest League's Western Division. " We usually just hang out in the offseason, not really during the season."
Boyd and Vogelbach played baseball together on travel teams out of Fort Myers, Fla., from the age of 14 until they graduated from high school. They were teammates for one year at Bishop Verot High School, where they won a state championship in 2011.
Boyd was drafted 55th overall that June by the Minnesota Twins and Vogelbach just 13 picks later by the Chicago Cubs. They met for the first time as professionals last week in suburban Chicago and again Sunday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
"First of all, it's awesome," Vogelbach said. "It's awesome to see how far he has made it. We're together and doing what we love. At the same time, you see him out there in the bullpen warming up, and it's cool to see, but like I tell everybody, you go to the plate, you've got to zone that stuff out. It's just another pitcher out there, and it's a battle between a batter and a pitcher."
Vogelbach is 4-for-5 in the two games against Boyd, with two home runs, two doubles and a walk. His two-run home run to right field on a full-count pitch tied the game at 4-4 in the fifth and ended Boyd's afternoon.
"It's not really any different than facing somebody else," said Boyd. "He just got the best of me today."
"Hudson's a great pitcher, he's got great stuff," Vogelbach said. "He knows what he's doing out there on the mound. I'm proud of him. He made some good pitches today. I was just able to wait him out and get some good pitches to hit."
The Kernels (38-23) got four runs in the bottom of the fifth and some superb relief pitching from Steve Gruver to win. Gruver threw four hitless innings to take some pressure off of what has been an overused bullpen lately.
Backup catcher Jhonatan Arias had to help out with an emergency relief inning in a 15-1 loss Saturday night.
"We've had trouble getting our starters to get through five innings, and that's going to be difficult to win games that way," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. "But Gruver came in and went right at them. Shut them down."
Byron Buxton walked his first three times up and smoked a two-run double off the 407-foot sign in left-center in the fifth. Rumors abounded after the game that "Buck" might be getting a promotion to high-Class A Fort Myers after the Twins announced Sunday similarly mega-prospects Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario were being sent from Fort Myers to Double-A New Britain.
But Mauer had heard nothing about losing Buxton or someone else as of early Sunday evening. The Kernels, who have a one-game lead on Beloit, finish their homestand Monday at noon.
There are seven games remaining in the MWL's first half.
"If we go out and play the way we can, we'll be OK," Mauer said. "But things still aren't great, yet. This was a good win, no doubt about it. You hate to (complain). But we need some starters to get us deeper into games."
Monday's game will be televised live back to the Twin Cities and those nationwide who have FOX Sports North.