The Tigers began their new season against the first half's FSL North leader Daytona and leapt out to two quick wins over the playoff-berthed Cubs. Behind offensive sparks from new and unusual sources, and dominant pitching from usual sources, Lakeland proved that their hot first half end and impressive all-star game performances from their four representatives were no flukes.
Adjusting the offense
Gustavo Nunez, arguably Lakeland's first half MVP, jumped up to AA Erie immediately after the all-star game and, like with all roster moves, especially those including all-stars, the lineup must adjust.
In Nunez's replacement Lakeland has begun starting second basemen William Bergolla at short stop. Bergolla spent a stint on the 7-day DL in early June, and hadn't been given much time on the field in the weeks between then and Nunez's departure, but has, to much surprise, instantly produced.
In the three games versus Daytona since Monday, Bergolla is 5-for-12 with one of Lakeland's two home runs.
Bergolla is right behind Lakeland's new leadoff hitter, who already has collected two hits and, more importantly, has stolen a base and given hope to filling a big void in the lineup with Nunez's absence.
Expect to see some of Lakeland's other guys with speed –Garcia, Fields, Bergolla—to attempt and help carry that load.
Along with Wyatt and Bergolla, Corey Jones, in the back of lineup, has helped carry the cold middle of the lineup for the first three games. Jones matched Bergolla's home run, and is 5-for-12.
In between these three hot starts, Tony Plagman, Jordan Lennerton, Wade Gaynor, and Avisail Garcia are, combined, a lowly 5-for-40. It's a promising thought, though, to think of what the lineup will be like when these four pick back up where they left the first half.
Keeping the pitching where it is
"Pitching, pitching, pitching."
That's been the name of Lakeland's game for an extended while now, and it seems to continue to be, and rightfully so, in the second half.
On Monday, the first game of the second half, Jared Wesson, despite control problems deposited a 6.1 IP 1 ER start to improve his record to 8-4. It wasn't pretty, but he constantly made the "big pitch" when it was needed. He weaved through six walks and six hits and forced two huge double plays.
Behind him in the rotation, Drew Smyly pitched seven innings while allowed no earned runs en route to a 4-3 win Tuesday.
If "pitching, pitching, pitching," is the title to the Tigers' game, then "Faulk, Faulk, Faulk," is their subtitle.
Faulk continues to be spotless. In the all-star game he produced the most effective outing of any pitcher in the game, throwing a three strike out, perfect eight inning, and has opened the eyes of scouts and fans throughout the league.
Faulk has accumulated another two saves, already, in the second half, both being scoreless showing, and now totals 18.
Making moves On the 20th Lakeland acquired 3B C.J. Wetherford from AA Erie.
Starting Thursday Lakeland travels to Brevard County for three 7:05 starts, and then return home to host three vs. the all-star hosting Clearwater Threshers.