KERNELS 4, BEES 2: One pitch is enough to lead to loss

By John Bohnenkamp

CEDAR RAPIDS — The final line on Burlington Bees pitcher Luis Alvarado was 89 pitches, 52 for strikes.

One of those strikes was sent over the right-field wall, and it scarred what was otherwise a strong performance by the right-hander.

Jared Akins’ three-run home run in the sixth inning was the biggest hit in a 4-2 win for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in Thursday’s Class A Midwest League game at Perfect Game Field.

To that point, with one out in the inning, it had been a piece of pitching artwork by Alvarado and Cedar Rapids starter Luis Rijo. Combined, they had allowed just three hits until that bottom of the sixth.

Then Gilberto Celestino singled to lead off the sixth, Chris Williams drew a one-out walk, then Akins drilled his home run.

It was enough to make Bees manager Jack Howell shake his head when looking at the final box score.

“Six innings, 90 pitches, three runs on four hits, one home run,” Howell said, surveying Alvarado’s numbers. “One pitch, you know? Ninety pitches, one mistake.

“As I told him, that’s an unbelievable outing. The process is getting him up and down, and he got up and down for six innings. The one thing is, he knows he made one mistake in 90 pitches. And that’s going to happen.”

What pleased Howell was how Alvarado (3-5) finished the inning by striking out Wander Javier and Trevor Casanova.

“He gets two punch-outs,” Howell said. “Which shows that it was just that one mistake. That’s an incredible outing, he has nothing to think about. You’re pitching to good hitters, and hitters hit mistakes.”

Rijo (2-5) never made a costly mistake. He faced just one batter over the minimum in seven innings, striking out 10 and not giving up a walk. The lone hit was Justin Jones’ single to lead off the third inning.

Rijo threw just 14 pitches, 12 for strikes, in the first two innings. He finished with 71 pitches, 56 for strikes.

“He’s a guy with a lot of strikeouts, but not a guy who has a lot of walks,” Howell said. “So that says he can put up a game like that.”

The Bees wouldn’t get any more baserunners until the ninth inning, and they had a chance to tie the game.

Mario Sanjur singled to right field with one out, then Nonie Williams hit a two-run home run. Spencer Griffin was hit in the ribs on the next pitch from Kernels reliever Jose Martinez, but Martinez then struck out Connor Fitzsimons to end the game.

ON DECK: The two teams complete their four-game series with a 6:35 p.m. game on Friday. Burlington’s Kyle Tyler (4-0, 3.64 ERA) faces Cedar Rapids’ Josh Winder (6-1, 2.40).

NOTES: Akins has three home runs against the Bees this season, the most of any Kernel. … Fitzsimons was in the right place at the right time for the second consecutive night. The Kernels had runners on first and third in the eighth inning when Casanova hit a line drive toward first base. Fitzsimons, holding the runner on, caught the liner and stepped on the base for the double play. He turned the same kind of double play in the first inning of Wednesday’s game. … Attendance was 4,639. … The game was played in 2 hours, 11 minutes.

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