Cubs drop series opener 7-1 to first place Kernels

SOUTH BEND, IN – Cedar Rapids and South Bend began a critical series on Tuesday night at Four Winds Field in downtown South Bend. Entering tonight there were just 15 games left in the first half of the season and the Cubs sat in third place, five games behind their opponent this week.

Last year when the Kernels came to town it was all about late heroics in a six-game battle that featured the Cubs winning three-straight nights on walk-off hits. There was no such drama tonight.

Cedar Rapids took an early lead with a run in the second. Kyler Fedko drew a walk from Cubs starter D.J. Herz to start the inning. Seth Gray then tapped one back to the mound but Herz gloved it and, trying to start a double play, pulled Pertuz off the bag with his throw to second base. With two outs Wander Javier delivered an RBI single to make it 1-0.

As was the case on Sunday, it was the third inning that did in the Cubs. Herz walked Christian Encarnacion-Strand and reigning Midwest League Player of the week, Aaron Sabato, to start the frame. Then with one out Fedko drew his second walk in as many innings to load the bases. Seth Gray drove in a pair with a single and a wild pitch added another. With two outs Didier Vargas came out of the bullpen and Seth Gray broke to steal home, he had home stolen safely but officially Vargas balked in the fourth run of the third inning.

The Cubs lone run came in the fourth inning when Pablo Aliendo stepped up and unloaded on the first pitch of the at-bat thrown by Sawyer Gipson-Long. The towering blast to left field was Aliendo’s second homer of the season.

Eduarniel Nunez tossed two scoreless innings in relief and Zach Leigh made his Four Winds Field after spending the first 18 games of his South Bend Cubs career exclusively on the road. Pete Crow-Armstrong also made his debut in front of the South Bend faithful and went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

The loss was the fifth in a row for the Cubs and extends their longest skid of the season.

Cedar Rapids and South Bend continue their six-game series with game two on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m.