Sloppy Kernels Lose Again

By Jeff Johnson

CEDAR RAPIDS — All of a sudden, the Cedar Rapids Kernels are in the midst of their first real losing streak of the Midwest League season.

"We're not playing very crisp, like we were," said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer, after a sloppy 6-3 loss to Burlington Saturday night before 2,581 fans at chilly Veterans Memorial Stadium. "We're almost waiting for something to happen instead of making it happen. I think that's the biggest difference."

Cedar Rapids was swept in a three-game series at Beloit, and committed three errors Saturday in a game in which neither team should have scored, quite frankly. Defensive miscues led to all nine runs.

Second baseman Candido Pimentel's untimely two-out fielding error of a routine grounder allowed Burlington to score three first-inning runs against hard-luck Kernels starter Jose Berrios (3-2). A misplay of a cinch double-play grounder by shortstop Jorge Polanco led to another Bees run in the fourth, though it was technically earned.

The Kernels (30-17) could never quite recover from the four-run hole. Instead it was four losses in a row.

"I don't think we were ready to catch that groundball in the first inning," Mauer said. "It looked like it surprised him. Then you get a couple broken-bat hits, and here you go ... I feel bad for Berrios because he pitched way better than his stats."

Berrios allowed nine hits and a walk in five innings, striking out eight. On the positive side, Beloit was swept in a double-header by Kane County, so the Kernels' lead in the Western Division actually grew a half-game to 2 1/2.

That's still little comfort to their manager, who wants his club to get its mojo back. As well as it has hit and produced offensively this season, the Kernels have allowed three or more runs in 15 consecutive games and 36 in their last six.

"We're way better than what we're playing," Mauer said. "It was probably foolish to think that we weren't going to lose a few games. This is a good test for us to see where we're at. Those guys are making adjustments to (our) guys, so they've got to figure it out. You can only tell them so much. They've got to start putting plans into action and getting stuff done"

The teams play again Sunday and Monday afternoons at 2:05. Brett Lee will start for the Kernels in place of originally scheduled starter Matt Tomshaw, who actually threw an inning of relief Saturday night.

Tomshaw is going to be promoted to high-Class A Fort Myers, a move that should become official Sunday morning. He went 2-0 in nine games, five starts, for Cedar Rapids with an earned run average of 5.10.

Mauer said he didn't think the Kernels would receive a player in return, at least immediately. In fact, reliever Josh Burris just left town Saturday morning for Minnesota Twins extended spring training after reliever Tyler Jones was activated from the disabled list. Cedar Rapids is a little short-handed right now, with shortstop Niko Goodrum (thumb) and outfielder Jeremias Pineda (hamstring) nicked up.

The club celebrated Star Wars Night by auctioning special autographed jerseys to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Outfielder Byron Buxton's was the highest priced, selling for $525 to a Twins' season-ticket holder in town for the weekend series.
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