CEDAR RAPIDS – You occasionally might see a guy forget how many outs there are in an inning, but when you’ve got virtually an entire team doing it, that’s not good.
The August blahs officially seem to have hit the Cedar Rapids Kernels, judging by their near-group faux pas Monday night in a 6-2 loss to Quad Cities at Veterans Memorial Stadium that was forgettable in multiple ways.
With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the ninth inning, Bobby Borchering hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Niko Goodrum that was as double-playish a ball as you’ll ever get. But Goodrum took his time making a throw to second baseman Jorge Polanco, with both guys beginning to trot off the field as Borchering reached first and a run scored.
“They weren’t the only two,” said a clearly perturbed Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “Those outfielders were running in, too. It’s embarrassing, and it’s unacceptable. That’s little league stuff.”
Mauer held a closed-door clubhouse meeting Saturday to clear the air about the way his club has played the past week. The Kernels (67-44, 27-16) have not been especially sharp in losing five of their last seven, yet they remain a half-game up on Q.C. for first place in the Western Division second-half standings.
Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan was in town to observe Monday and couldn’t have been too impressed with the way things went overall.
“Mental mistakes aren’t acceptable,” Mauer said. “That’s without a doubt. That tells you it wasn’t just a couple of guys, it was several guys that were sleep walking through that game, trying just to get it over with. That’s not right, that’s not how things have to be. Believe me, things are going to be addressed again.
“It tells you that meeting we had a couple of days ago didn’t really do much. It’s just a lot of guys playing tentative, a lot of guys putting their heads down when we get in a hole. It sure is frustrating. Very frustrating.”
Cedar Rapids couldn’t hit Quad Cities starting pitcher Josh Hader, acquired by the parent Houston Astros from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade that sent big-league pitcher Bud Norris east. The funky sidearming left-hander gave up just one hit in six innings, with the Kernels continually hitting routine grounders and flyballs.
The only highlight of the night was Adam Brett Walker’s bomb of a two-run home run in the ninth. It was his 24th this season, to go along with 96 RBIs.
“There are some guys that might be a little tired, but that’s just a part of it,” Walker said. ”I think we’ve just got to learn how to play through it. Just keep giving 100 percent of what you’ve got every day. Everybody across the league that’s playing baseball right now feels the same way, I think. We’ve just got to try and get a little life. I think we might be a little down right now. Haven’t been able to put some stuff together.”
It should be a motivated team Tuesday night, considering the opposing pitcher is Mark Appel, the first-overall pick in this year’s draft, who has been eased into pro ball. The Stanford grad , who signed with the Astros for a $6.35-million bonus, began his career at Rookie-level Tri-City and has thrown just 14 2/3 innings in four starts for Quad Cities.
His pitch count Tuesday is believed to be around 40 to 50.
“We’ll see what he’s got. First overall,” Walker said. “But he’s just a guy throwing a baseball, you know? Just go out there, play our game and try and come out with a win.”
Mauer said after the game that injured pitcher Brett Lee will come off the disabled list this week and make a start Thursday at Beloit. Lee (forearm strain) is 7-4 with a 3.23 earned run average.
Cedar Rapids will have to make a player move since it already has 25 active players.
The club also will closely monitor the workload of starting pitcher Mason Melotakis the rest of the regular season, Mauer said. Melotakis (9-4, 3.39) has thrown 103 2/3 innings as a first-time starter, and the Kernels want to have him available for the Midwest League playoffs in September.
The Twins like to limit their minor-leaguers to about 125 innings per season. Mauer said lefty David Hurlbut and righty Tim Shibuya likely will slide into the starting rotation down the stretch.
Here is the game boxscore: