Kernels Win Again In Walk-Off Fashion
Jeff Johnson and Josh Christensen, Reporters
CEDAR RAPIDS – When the leading RBI guy in the minor leagues keeps coming to bat with guys in scoring position, eventually he's going to drive one home. It took until the ninth inning, but Adam Brett Walker finally drove one home.
His one-out single lifted the Cedar Rapids Kernels to a 6-5 walk-off win Thursday night over Beloit before 2,714 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Make that a second straight walk-off win over Beloit.
"We'll take it," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer.
Walker has 104 runs batted in this season, third on the club's all-time single-season list. He needs eight more in the Kernels' last 18 regular-season games to surpass Larry Barnes for second and 17 to tie Jack Tanner's record of 121 in 1949.
"It'd be cool," Walker said. "But I'm just trying to win some ballgames. So we'll see what happens."
He came up in the fourth inning Thursday with a runner on third base and none out, but popped out on the infield. In his next at-bat, he struck out with runners on the corners and none out.
In the seventh, he grounded into an around-the-horn double play with guys on first and second. But Beloit continued to play with fire.
Jonathan Murphy led off the ninth with a single, then Niko Goodrum was hit by a pitch. Jorge Polanco bunted into a fielder's choice, with Murphy thrown out at third.
But Walker hit a looping liner to right-center that dropped just in front of a diving Dayton Alexander, with the ball bouncing behind him to allow Polanco to stroll home. Walker was credited with a double.
"I think I wasn't quite feeling most comfortable today in the box," he said. "Just one of those days when I was kind of stiff. That last at-bat, I just tried to stay relaxed and let the ball get to me. Just try to get a good pitch that I could hit. Got one into center, and luckily the guy didn't catch it."
"He was trying to do a little too much. Big swings," Mauer said. "Calm down, that was the thing. He's just got to relax. A guy with his skill set, he doesn't have to (swing big). He's got to see the ball and get the bat to it, and good things will happen with him."
The Kernels (74-46 overall, 34-18 second half) rallied from a 5-0 hole, scoring four times in the sixth inning to tie it. Of all people, Joel Licon hit a three-run home run to left-center to make it 5-5.
It was Licon's first long ball in 139 at-bats this season.
Newcomer Miguel Sulbaran, who the parent Twins acquired Tuesday from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade, gave up seven hits and five runs (four earned) in four innings. It has been a whirlwind last two days for Sulbaran, a 19-year-old lefty from Venezuela, who was playing for Great Lakes in the Midwest League.
He arrived in town Wednesday afternoon, then was chosen to start a day later. He throws a two and four-seam fastball (that was aboutl 90 miles per hour Thursday), a slider, curveball and changeup.
"I never thought (a trade) would happen," said Sulbaran, through teammate and translator Tim Shibuya. "I got a phone call from the Twins and my agent saying 'Hey, I'm going to Cedar Rapids.' My head is still swimming a little bit, just trying to get to know everybody."
"You know what, Sulbaran did better than what his line was," Mauer said. "He's going to be OK. He wasn't afraid, threw the ball over, tried to change speeds."
Shibuya, Brandon Bixler and Brian Gilbert combined for five hitless relief innings to allow their mates to complete their biggest comeback of what has been a special Midwest League season. The teams complete their three-game series Friday night at 6:35.
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