Lakeland MLN: Big Offensive Swoon Spoils Week

After rising to second place at the end of last week, the Flying Tigers are experiencing a drastic offensive swoon, but, with the race close, still have their sights set on the not-far-off playoffs.

It wasn't a pretty six games for Lakeland in the past week. They suffered a four-game sweep at Jupiter, and then split their first two vs. Palm Beach. They've fallen to 3.5 game back in the FSL North, last place, but with 40 games left, Lakeland may be down, but know they aren't out.

"We've had some tough games, the last week or so," said lineup keystone Tony Plagman, "we know it's going to come around, you know, it's going to take some time and hopefully we're back into it soon."

There are 40 games left in the second half, which renders 3.5 games back surmountable, by a long shot, but if Lakeland continues hitting the way they are, those 3.5 could soon increase.

If they do get boomerang soon, though, then they have enough time to continue their hopeful playoff run.

"We're only a couple games out," assured Plagman, "we see ourselves making the playoffs and having a good run at it."

"We see ourselves in the playoffs for sure."

It's a definite possibility, but for it to be sure, the Flying Tigers must kick-start the offense.

Week-long offensive struggles

There have been two bright spots in the Lakeland lineup recently. But, even with their help, the Flying Tigers struggles, highlighted by Plagman's 1 RBI, produced only ten runs in the past six games.

Wade Gaynor, Lakeland's Kentucky-born four-hitter who also fields a mean third base, led the team in hitting in the past week. He went 9-for-21 with a chain of four consecutive multi-hit games but, as a result of the people around him, only scored once and drove in one.

The man three spots behind him, Corey Jones, whose bat has been consistently warm since the arrival and departure of Carlos Guillen, finished the week 7-for-19 with two doubles.

Gaynor's average now sits at .232 while Jones' is at .259.

Aside from those two, the offense is absent.

Without Gaynor and Jones, the usual starting lineup's average sits exactly at the Mendoza line, and produced only 26 hits—only three of them going for extra bases.

It's a bit perturbing but, like blazing hit streaks, freezing cold streaks are unsustainable. The offense is sure to pick up, especially their power numbers. After four last week, Lakeland did not hit one home run. And, after hitting his way to second place in the FSL in RBI, Tony Plagman only one this week, which is almost an unbelievable anomaly.

And he knows it.

When asked what he sees for the team's future, Plagman said that he'll be driving in runs, and helping the team win some games.

Smyly dominant, rest of the rotation still pitching well enough to win

The opportunities to win games are there. The pitching, although nowhere near dominant, has consistently kept Lakeland competitive. Only once did a starter go less than five innings, and only once did a starter allow more than five runs. Decent, but not great. And with the offense playing how its been, Lakeland needs great.

That being said, Drew Smyly is, well, still the guy we've grown used—the first-year pro that is dealing his way to a AA hand.

Smyly continued his dominance on Monday vs. Palm Beach when he struck out 10 hitters in 7 innings while not allowing a run. And good thing he didn't make even one large mistake, because his offense only provided one run.

And while the start to the game was no surprise to Lakeland fans, the end of the game was. Instead of Kenny Faulk jogging from the pen for the last three outs. Dave Huppert phoned in Matt Little.

Since Faulk's return from the 7-day DL he's been nothing other than shaky, and has been consistently wild.

On Saturday Faulk suffered his third loss to Jupiter while walking two allowing one earned run in 1.2 innings. And on Tuesday, walked three en route to allowing one earned in .2 innings.

It's hard to say whether Lakeland will ease Faulk back into their closer role (he was an all-star), or if they'll let Matt Little, who has converted his only four save opportunities, to either anchor his closer role, or pitch his way out of it.

Behind Smyly there hasn't been anyone nearly as effective, but everyone, with the exception of recently promoted Shaun Teufel, is pitching competitively.

Take a look-

In three consecutive games vs. Jupiter:

Trevor Feeney – 5 IP 4 ER

Mark Sorensen – 7 IP 4 ER

Jared Wesson – 5 IP 3 ER

Once the offense reheats, these starts will be exactly what Lakeland needs to surge into the playoffs.

Making moves

On the 21st Lakeland acquired C Rob Brantly, and on the 22nd, acquired DH Shawn Roof.

Reliever Ryan Robowski was sent up to Triple-A.

Looking forward

On Thursday Lakeland hosts Palm Beach in a double-header, and then immediately travel Fort Myers for four games. After a day off, Lakeland then heads to Daytona for three games.

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