Playoff Update, Long Season, Unforgettable First
Last night provided exactly what the TinCaps needed, as they broke a streak of 50 innings in which they had scored just seven runs, taking a 4-1 win against the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Fort Wayne sent nine men to the plate in a four-run eighth inning, breaking a scoreless tie that was the result of great starting pitching from James Needy and Jeff Ferrell. Needy, who made just his third start since joining the TinCaps rotation, has proved to be a great addition to the starting staff. He went six scoreless innings, although left with the game tied 0-0. Ferrell was equally strong, giving up four hits over his six innings.
There was also the rare occurrence of closer Matt Stites giving up an earned run. He allowed a double down the right field line and then a bloop single to center field, allowing the Whitecaps to make it a 4-1 game. It was only the third earned run he’s allowed in nearly 45 innings, and the first earned run he’s allowed since May 29th. He’s having an exceptional season. His parents, Mark and Rita, were on hand to see him pitch, having made the drive up from Festus, Missouri, his home town. If you’d like to hear from Matt, he’ll be the guest of Tommy Schoegler on Sound Off with the TinCaps this Monday on 21 Alive.
PLAYOFF UPDATE: The TinCaps enter today’s play tied with Lake County in the second half playoff race. Here’s where it gets interesting:
If the season ended today, even though the teams are tied, Lake County would be the second half champion. Why? It all comes down to tie-breakers. The Midwest League uses the season series between the two teams as the first tie breaker, and the second tie breaker is the run differential between the two teams. Well, the season series finished 6-6 and each team scored 41 runs over the 12 games. So what’s the third tie breaker? Whichever team won the final meeting of the season between the clubs…and that was Lake County. The Captains won a 2-1 rain-shortened game on July 3rd at Classic Park. Who would’ve ever thought that a July 3 game could have any type of postseason implications?
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with hitting coach Jacque Jones, as he dissects the team’s hitting woes of late and gives his prescription for a TinCaps turnaround:
The baseball season, just based on how long it is, can take its toll. The players may start to tire as the season goes on– long, hot days that seem to blend into one another in city after city. Heck, a slump can make a day seem even longer than it actually is. Fort Wayne just broke a four-game losing streak last night and over the course of those four days, the bats seemed slower than they were in May and June. The pitches seemed more hittable than they had been in weeks past.
Last night I was reading a feature piece on Charlie Montoyo, who is the manager of the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and one quotation of his really caught my eye:
“In baseball, success and failure is contagious. If you put yourself in a hole, individually or as a team, it’s difficult to battle out of it. If you are hitting .200 in July, you can get hot for two weeks and you are still hitting only .225. It feels impossible. Then you go 0 for 4 and you are right back in your slump. But the players here are playing hard and that’s all I ask. If they work hard, prepare everyday, and stay positive, that’s all you can do.”
Hopefully yesterday’s win will prove contagious for the TinCaps, as they try to finish the last 11 games of the season on a high note.
Yesterday afternoon I was around the batting cage as the TinCaps took their pregame cuts, when I saw this come across my Twitter feed:
Three Low-A Bowling Green players hit with 50-game suspensions: 2B Ryan Brett, RHP Charlie Cononie & LHP Justin Woodall #Rays—
Matt Eddy (@eddymk) August 23, 2012
It was surprising news to say the least.
Here’s the full story via Baseball America:
“Three Rays minor leaguers will miss the conclusion of the season, including the low Class A Midwest League playoffs, following a Major League Baseball announcement that each has tested positive for methamphetamine and an amphetamine. All three Bowling Green players received 50-game suspensions without pay, effective immediately.
Second baseman Ryan Brett, who headed the organization’s depth chart at the position coming into the year, is the most notable name on the list. The 20-year-old batted .285/.348/.390 with six homers and 19 doubles in 410 at-bats for Bowling Green. A 2010 third-rounder out of high school, Brett ranked second in the MWL with 48 stolen bases in 56 attempts.
A pair of Hot Rods relievers also face 50-game suspensions: righthander Charlie Cononie (24th round, 2011, Towson) and lefty Justin Woodall (26th round, 2010, Alabama).”
The Hot Rods are headed to the Midwest League playoffs, having secured their spot as the Wild Card in the first half. They’re also a potential first round opponent for the TinCaps. If Fort Wayne is the second half champion, they would take on Bowling Green in a best of three series to begin the postseason.
Brett, in particular, had really hurt Fort Wayne. In 11 games against the TinCaps, he hit .375 (18-48), went six-for-six in stolen base attempts and notched a .423 on-base percentage.
If you’d like to read a nice story, here’s one about Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks) outfielder Joe Loftus, who hit his first professional home run on July 14. The fan who caught it mailed it back, so that Loftus could keep it as a memento of his first pro homer.
Wings…take it away!