Cedar Rapids claims playoff berth with big win over Clinton

The Cedar Rapids Kernels claimed the final first-half playoff spot in a big way Sunday, beating the Clinton LumberKings 16-3 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

According to the LumberKings, it was Clinton’s most-lopsided loss to Cedar Rapids in the nearly 900 games they’ve played against each other since 1962.

The Kernels controlled the game from the start, scoring nine runs in the opening inning, and plating three more in the 2nd. They added four more in the 8th inning to make sure it didn’t matter what the Quad Cities River Bandits did in Beloit. (The River Bandits beat the Snappers 5-3, which would’ve given them the playoff berth if the Kernels hadn’t won.)

Everyone in the Kernels’ starting lineup contributed to the win. Most notably, Travis Blankenhorn went 4-for-5 with a home run and three runs batted in; Aaron Whitehead went 2-for-3 with a homer, a double, a walk and five RBI; Ben Rortvedt went 3-for-5 with a two-run homer; Brandon Lopez went 3-for-5 with a run batted in; and Christian Cavaness hit a three-run triple.

In addition to the Kernels filling the Western Division wild-card slot, the other first-half playoff berths were earned by the Kane County Cougars (Western Division title), the West Michigan Whitecaps (Eastern Division title), and the Dayton Dragons (Eastern Division wild card).

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Quad Cities River Bandits, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Lugnuts-Whitecaps game cancelled due to rain

Saturday’s scheduled game between the Lansing Lugnuts and the West Michigan Whitecaps was rained out.

I finally got to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr. play. Unfortunately, that lasted only a half-inning.

Saturday’s game between the Lansing Lugnuts and the West Michigan Whitecaps was cancelled due to rain. The game doesn’t affect the first-half playoff picture, so it will not be made up — even though I (and many others, I’m sure) would have enjoyed a Sunday doubleheader at Cooley Law School Stadium.

Oh well.

The Whitecaps batted in the top of the 1st inning, but rain stopped play before the Lugnuts came to bat in the bottom half. Guerrero — the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospect — didn’t get to do much on the field, so all my photos of him are some variation of this:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

I didn’t get to see Bo Bichette at all. He wasn’t in the lineup, presumably for a day of rest before he is involved in the Midwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday and the Home Run Derby on Monday. There is speculation (by many, including myself) that the .400 hitter could get promoted to High-A after the All-Star break.

The starting lineup for the Lansing Lugnuts, who took the field but never came to bat in Saturday’s game.

The two teams will end the first half of the season with a Sunday matinee game. The scheduled pitchers are Whitecaps RHP Spenser Watkins (3-1, 1.93 ERA in 11 games/seven starts) and Lugnuts RHP Osman Gutierrez (1-4, 9.86 ERA in six starts).

Whitecaps pitcher Spenser Watkins (left) and catcher Austin Athmann walk toward the visitors bullpen before Saturday’s game.

Woodrow added to ASG

Whitecaps outfielder Danny Woodrow was added to the Eastern Division team for the Midwest League All-Star Game. There are now seven Whitecaps players on the roster, with the others being infielders Josh Lester and Blaise Salter, outfielder Jake Robson, and pitchers Austin Sodders, Gregory Soto and Jason Foley.

West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Danny Woodrow

Bonus photo!

This is my first trip back to Lansing since the team completed a multi-year renovation of its stadium. Among other things, apartments were added to the outfield area, changing the look and feel of the entire park.

I’ll be writing more about the ballpark changes in an upcoming post, but in the meantime, here’s a photographic sneak peek:

In this photo, you can see the new outfield apartments and scoreboard at Cooley Law School Stadium.

*All photos by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler

Posted in 2017 All-Star Game, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

One playoff berth left to be claimed by CR or QC

Heading into the last day before the Midwest League All-Star break, the Cedar Rapids Kernels have a one-game lead over the Quad Cities River Bandits in the race for the final first-half playoff berth.

That’s thanks to Cedar Rapids’ 2-1 win over the Clinton LumberKings and Quad Cities’ 4-3 loss to the Beloit Snappers on Saturday.

The key moment in the Kernels win was Travis Blankenhorn’s steal of home plate in the bottom of the 8th inning. Prior to that, the game was scoreless through the first five innings and then was tied 1-1 after both teams scored once in the 6th inning.

Kernels pitcher Tyler Wells improved to 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 10 starts, after giving up only one run on four hits and no walks in a career-high eight innings. He struck out 10 batters, giving him 80 strikeouts in 57 innings this season.

The game in Beloit lasted 10 innings, ending when Eric Marinez singled home the winning run to end the Snappers’ losing streak at four games. Beloit had a 2-1 lead after 7 innings, but the River Bandits scored twice in the top of the 8th and the Snappers plated a run in the bottom half, creating a 3-3 tie.

Beloit’s Trace Loehr and QC’s Taylor Jones each drove in two runs.

On Sunday, a Kernels win gives Cedar Rapids the Western Division first-half wild-card berth. If the Kernels lose and the River Bandits win, Quad Cities gets the berth. Cedar Rapids gets the berth if both teams lose.

The Kane County Cougars are the Western Division first-half champs. The West Michigan Whitecaps won the Eastern Division first-half title, and the Dayton Dragons earned the Eastern Division wild-card berth.

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Beloit Snappers, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Bichette goes 7-for-8 in doubleheader to raise average to .400

Lansing Lugnuts infielder Bo Bichette raised his batting average to .400 with a 7-for-8 performance in Thursday’s doubleheader against the South Bend Cubs. (Photo by Tyler Marcotte)

Bo Bichette raised his batting average to .400 by going 7-for-8 in the Lansing Lugnuts’ doubleheader sweep of the South Bend Cubs on Thursday.

The Toronto Blue Jays prospect has the second-highest batting average in Minor League Baseball, behind only Colorado Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers, who is hitting .404 for the Lancaster JetHawks of the High-A California League.

Bichette has a huge lead in the Midwest League batting race, with a 71-point lead over West Michigan Whitecaps outfielder Jake Robson. Even though he is only 19, Bichette — the son of former major-leaguer Dante Bichette — looks to be a very likely candidate for promotion in the second half of the minor-league season. It’s certainly possible he’ll get bumped up after Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Midland — Bichette is scheduled to start at shortstop for the Eastern Division team — in which case this weekend’s series in Lansing will be a good one to watch for two reasons: the Lugnuts are still alive in the wild-card race, and Bichette could end the first half with a .400 or better batting average.

I’ll be at the last two games of the series (Saturday and Sunday), so I’ll be live-tweeting about Bichette’s plate performance and the games in general (follow me on Twitter here), and writing posts about them (with photos) on this website. The Lugnuts will be playing against the Whitecaps, the only Midwest League team that has clinched a first-half playoff berth so far.

Posted in 2017 All-Star Game, 2017 Playoffs, California League, Lancaster JetHawks, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps | 1 Comment

Whitecaps clinch first-half Eastern Division title

The West Michigan Whitecaps were rained out Thursday, but they still clinched the first-half Eastern Division title thanks to a Dayton Dragons loss with only three games left in the first half.

The Whitecaps clinched a first-half playoff berth Wednesday and needed only a win or a Dragons loss to grab the division title. They are the only Midwest League team to clinch a playoff berth so far, with only three days left before the All-Star break.

Dayton leads the Eastern Division wild-card race by a game-and-a-half over both the Lansing Lugnuts and the South Bend Cubs. In the Western Division, the first-place Kane County Cougars have a half-game lead over the Cedar Rapids Kernels and a game-and-a-half lead over the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Posted in 2017 Playoffs, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Dayton Dragons, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment