Kernels Lose Again To Peoria, Fall Out Of First Place

By Jeff Johnson (Writing) and Josh Christensen (Video)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Backing into a championship is better than not winning one at all. That's what it's been reduced to.

The Cedar Rapids Kernels had a ton of opportunities this week to cinch the Midwest League's Western Division first-half title, yet found themselves needing to have help to do so after a 8-3 loss Saturday night to Peoria before 4,373 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Kernels (40-27) had at least a share of first place since April 20, but fell to second after Beloit finished off Clinton in their game later Saturday night. The only way for Cedar Rapids to win the division now is to take down Peoria in the first-half finale Sunday afternoon and have Clinton beat Beloit.

Pretty shocking the way things have turned out in what has largely been a terrific first half.

"We've controlled our own destiny. Now we've got to scoreboard watch, and that sucks," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. "Those young men in (the clubhouse) are pretty quiet because they're taking it pretty hard. They're disappointed. It's just unfortunate that it's come down to this. You look at the bright side, we're in the playoffs. We'll see what tomorrow brings."

Cedar Rapids hasn't closed strongly, losing three in a row and four of five. Beloit, meanwhile, reeled off a nine-game win streak that was stopped Thursday night.

"We're still in a pretty blessed position to be going for first place," said Kernels relief pitcher Tim Atherton. "That's just the way it is. I wouldn't say we've been pushing in a sense that we've been pressing. We win together, we lose together."

Peoria (37-29) ran to a 6-0 lead Saturday night, with Independent-ball refugee Jimmy Parque hitting a three-run home run in a four-run fourth inning to chase Kernels starter Hudson Boyd (1-4). Parquee's first affiliated-ball long ball came right after Boyd was able to get a 1-2-3 double play that appeared to get him out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam.

Pitching difficulties have been the primary reason the Kernels have a 11-14 record the past month.

"Our (team) ERA keeps climbing, and we just can't seem to find a way to scratch some innings together," Mauer said. "We've got to make some adjustments here to try and find a way to give ourselves a chance."

Mason Melotakis (6-2, 3.24 earned run average) gets the ball Sunday, and he's been C.R.'s top starter since the promotion of Tyler Duffey to high-Class A Fort Myers. The Kernels are expected to activate shortstop Niko Goodrum from the disabled list in time for Sunday's game.

He has been out for two weeks after suffering a concussion in a home-plate collision in a game at Kane County.

"For us to lead the division as long as we have ..." Mauer said. "For Beloit to get as hot as it has, and for us to go as cold as we have, that's tough. A lot happens with young teams, and we're not different. You go through ups and downs."
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