Lakeland MLN: Flying Tigers Falling

After beginning the year with a 9-4 record, one worthy of the top of the FSL North Division, the Flying Tigers have dropped 6 of 7 and find themselves 3.5 games behind first place Daytona.

Hot bats going cold, solid pitching gone soft, and shoddy, sometimes lazy fielding have left the Tigers without what was helping them soar before Nobody is stepping up in place of those struggling, and those who aren't completely unproductive aren't producing enough of a spark to keep Lakeland in games.

Since last Wednesday their slide consists of a loss to Clearwater, two losses to Brevard County, another two to Daytona, while only salvaging a one-run win over Brevard.

The Lineup

Not everyone has completely fallen off, but the lineup is shallow and slow.

Gustavo Nunez's running swing has still amassed a .329 batting average at the top of the Tigers lineup, and Tony Plagman is still anchored at .329 as well, but in between those two in the order most of the names have been inconsistent.

The six, seven, and eight hitters in the Tigers' last game, Avisail Garcia, Corey Jones, and Daniel Fields are batting .195, .191, and .197, respectively.

So, when Plagman's RBI pace has slowed –he only drove in two runs the past week, dropping to third in the league—and Nunez is only 5-for-21 in the past seven games, there is nobody to produce in their place.

The only other who has provided steady support is first baseman Jordan Lennerton In just the past week the first baseman has utilized his picturesque to turn in eleven hits, a .423 average, four runs and six RBI.

Lakeland hasn't done much with their feet to spark the lineup, either.

In addition to not being able to create any productive sparks with their bats, the sluggish Tigers definitely aren't flying. Lakeland has only stolen six bases in twenty games this year compared to Brevard County's league-leading 25 Lakeland's been caught five times, though, so maybe they've just accepted a slow role But with a 357 team slugging-percentage, the FSL North's fourth lowest, maybe heating up the baselines is necessary.

Perhaps the epitome of Lakeland's black or white, squalid lineup came in the top of the third inning on Wednesday vs the Threshers.

Gustavo Nunez led off the inning with a single off of Clearwater's Julio Rodriguez Brent Wyatt followed with a fly-out to center After him, Plagman hit a high double off the base of the center field wall and drove in Nunez. Next, five hitter Wade Gaynor grounded out, and after him, sweet-swing Lennerton doubled off the base of the left field wall and drove in Plagman The next hitter, Avisail Garcia grounded out to end the inning.

The two run rally, produced solely by Lakeland's only consistent hitters, gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead The lead blown two innings later and the Tigers ended up losing the game 9-6.

Defense

The current pitching situation in Lakeland is similar to the offensive problems in that it's simply not doing very well But it is dissimilar because, unlike the offense, which still has some bright spots, there is nobody in the rotation or the bullpen keeping a semblance of consistency Behind the hurlers, too, the defense has poor

Victor Larez, who started the season with two consecutive wins while allowing three earned runs in thirteen innings, has even his record by losing two consecutive starts Larez, who is supposed to be the anchor to an inauspicious rotation, allowed five earned runs in four innings vs Dayton on the 21st, and allowed seven runs (two earned) vs Clearwater on the 27th.

Behind a pitcher like Larez, a pitch-to-contact pitcher who hasn't exceeded four strikeouts in any of his starts, the defense is a big reason behind a win or a loss.

In their game vs Clearwater on Wednesday, Larez's perfect game was broken up with two outs in the third on a pop-up to right by Domonic Brown, and although converged upon by three players, dropped in unexpectedly. In the next inning Larez fielded a swinging bunt lazily, allowing the runner to beat the throw to first And lastly, infielders Corey Jones and Wade Gaynor, misplayed –although technically not errors—two high-choppers Five unearned runs were let up.

On a side note, Domonic Brown, the vaunted Phillies prospect, made his first rehab start on Wednesday. He hit a home run off Larez in the fifth that flew over the 401 sign in center field and over the large "batter's eye" behind the wall It capped off a six run inning off the flustered, discomposed Larez.

In the past week the Tigers have committed nine errors

Nate Newman, the newcomer from West Michigan, is bolstering a faltering bullpen. After an 0-5 record and 4 46 for the Whitecaps, Newman has allowed one earned run in four innings for Lakeland He collected the only Tigers win during their 1-6 stretch.

Looking ahead

The Flying Tigers have two more games in their current series vs Brevard County They then play three straight games at Brevard County, and meet Clearwater for another three after that.

Making moves On the 23rd LHP Drew Smyly was placed on the 7-day disable list, retroactive to the 20th They also were assigned Nate Newman from West Michigan.


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