Just five starts into his single-A career, Cedar Rapids Kernels starter Sam Gibbons showed that he has the stuff to make the Minnesota Twins prospect a real find within the organization. After battling in three of his first four starts, the right-hander shutdown the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers for six innings, allowing just two hits in a 4-0 Kernels victory.
Gibbons was opposed by Timber Rattlers starter Luis Ortega, who has been having his own struggles through his first full season at Single-A. Entering the contest he was 1-5, and had found himself working out of the bullpen of late. Monday night he returned to the rotation and looked quite solid for Wisconsin.
Through the first three frames both pitchers were doing a great job of controlling the opposing team’s hitters. Gibbons retired six of the first seven batters he faced, before getting into a bit of trouble in the third. The Kernels starter walked the bases load before getting the final out to end the inning.
Ortega was pitching well himself. He allowed a single runner to reach base in each of the first three innings. He allowed a stolen bases to each of those runners, but all three were left stranded at second base.
In the top of the fourth Cedar Rapids finally got on the board. Alex Real led off with a walk and came around to score when Zack Larson doubled to center field to make it 1-0. That would be the last inning for Ortega (1-6), as he reached the 70-pitch point. The left-hander allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks in 4 innings pitched. The one run he allowed was earned and he struck out 4.
Angel Ventura took over for Wisconsin, and had a pro and con kind of appearance. He allowed 6 hits and 3 runs over his 4.2 innings of work, but also struck out 7.
Cedar Rapids would get the first of those runs against Ventura in the top of the seventh. Jorge Fernandez singled with one out and moved to second on a walk to Rafael Valera. A wild pitch by Ventura moved both runners into scoring position and Nick Gordon drove Fernandez home with a single.
In the ninth Cedar Rapids added two more runs. Fernandez tripled with one out and scored on a wild pitch. Valera singled and moved to second on a ground out. Gordon delivered another clutch two-out hit, singling to right field to score Valera and make it 4-0.
Meanwhile Gibbons was in complete command. He left after the sixth inning, allowing just 2 hits and 4 walks, while striking out 5. Of his 89 pitches, 54 went for strikes. Luke Bard pitched two scoreless innings for the Kernels, and Trevor Hildenberger closed out the game with a perfect ninth inning.
Francisco Castillo had two of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers four hits. Tanner English, Gordon and Fernandez each had two hits for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Fernandez scored two runs and Gordon drove in two.
They continue their series Tuesday as Luke Westphal (0-0, 0.00) goes to the mound versus David Burkhalter (1-4, 5.01) for Wisconsin. Game time is 12:05 local time.
By Robert Pannier