Lakeland MLN: All-Stars Hot Going Into Break

The All-Star break has finally arrived and the Flying Tigers offense is roaring, furiously and loudly, at the perfect time. Behind their four impressive all-stars, Lakeland stands at an average 34-32, but, after a three-game sweep of first-place Daytona and an offensive tear in the past week, Lakeland has their eyes sight forward.

Despite a 3-4 record since the 9th, Lakeland has one game and one break before beginning their second-half campaign vs. Daytona.

An exciting time

While speaking to Kenny Faulk a few weeks ago Faulk said that there are two major goals for him: Besides winning, "it's my goal to either be pulled up or make an all-star team," and that's exactly what Faulk got.

Along with consistent Tony Plagman, Gustavo Nunez, and Julio Rodriguez, Faulk headlines the Flying Tigers in their representation of the North division in the Florida State League all-star game that takes place in Clearwater on Saturday.

All four players, too, are well-deserving.

The past week has been an offensive surge, which is a surprise, especially after the pitching has carried the team over the past couple of weeks. This surge has, indubitably, been anchored by the season-long anchor Tony Plagman.

Lakeland hadn't launched a home run all of last week, but in the past week Plagman has blasted two yard monsters of his own, increasing his total to ten. He posted 11 hits in 32 at-bats, and is on a seven-game RBI (10 total) streak.

His swoon-inducing streak has increased his total to 51 and has nudged him back up to 3rd on the FSL leaderboard behind Greg Sexton and Justin Bour.

Plagman is the third of a streaking trio at the top of the Tigers lineup.

Fellow all-star Gustavo Nunez, the slash-hitting scrapper is 11-for-33 since the 9th with eight runs scored.

He's made the all-star game mainly for his impressive top-of-the-order table setting, but Nunez's fielding has also been shining as well. Nunez is quickly developing into an impressive speedy shortstop.

Behind Nunez, and before Plagman, Brent Wyatt has somehow managed to exceed Nunez's run scoring in the past week. Wyatt has scored 10 runs in the past week, he and Nunez combine for 18 of the team's 48 runs since the 9th.

And, although most of the year the lineup has been imbalanced, the rest of the lineup have provided their part.

Wade Gaynor and Avisail Garcia have added nine hits each while coveted prospect Daniel Fields added eight of his own.

In seven games the Lakeland has accumulated a scary 77 hits, or 11 per game. Usually, with such production, a team will yield a record better than 3-4. And, if Lakeland's pitching rebounds in the direction towards where they've been in the past few weeks, the offense and the pitching will boost a hot start of the second half.

Rough patch for the pitching

Last week Drew Smyly earned the FSL Pitcher of the Week accolade in his first professional for his two starts, but, unfortunately, was not able to keep up the heat.

Smyly's 6.2 IP 4 ER start was not horrible and epitomized Lakeland's week-long pitching.

Despite a solid 12-1 win on Thursday where Trevor Feeney tossed seven shutout innings, Lakeland allowed 6.5 runs-per-game in the other six games of the week – a number that, regardless of hot hitting, will not produce many wins.

Newcomer Luke Putkonen allowed six runs in six innings in his second Lakeland start, and Victor Larez, the team's top starter at the beginning of the year, has long his slot in the rotation.

Perhaps the biggest concern (if one bad outing can be considered a concern), was Kenny Faulk's first blown save of the year.

On Sunday Faulk entered the game in the ninth inning with a one run lead vs. Brevard County, but surrendered three earned runs in one inning, which led to a 6-4 loss.

Faulk, who has been the team's most trusted pitcher throughout the year, threw a shutout Save last Thursday, and his ERA now sits low at 2.28.

Looking ahead

After one more game versus Tampa and a three day break for the all-star game, Lakeland hosts Daytona for one game, travels to Daytona for two games, and then travels to Brevard County for three games.

Making moves

In the past week Lakeland acquired pitcher Zach Samuels and Alexander Moreno.

On the 10th 1B James Meador retired.

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