Lakeland MLN: Trying to Stay in Hunt

It was a week that ended with a late-night heartbreaker on Wednesday, but the Flying Tigers have used flaming hot hitting, and newcomer Rob Brently, to keep pace with the FSL North, and to keep themselves in the late-season playoff hunt.

Lakeland put up staggering offensive numbers in the past week. Behind slugger Tony Plagman Lakeland averaged six runs and 11 hits per game and, despite posting a mediocre 3-4 record for the week, are still only 3.5 games behind the first-place Tampa Yankees.

Last week's outage becomes this week's surge

Power, power, power.

Obviously, this week's word-of-the-week was "power". For a team not known for it, Lakeland surely displayed a whole bunch over the past seven games. To put the surge in perspective, in, roughly, the previous 14 weeks of the season, Lakeland dropped 53 yardmonsters with an average of 3.79 a week.

This week, with some help from newly acquired and highly coveted catcher Rob Brently, Lakeland managed to double that number, and them some, by hitting eight bombs (including three in a 11-2 win over Fort Myers on Monday).

Tony Plagman, Lakeland's most commonplace power provider, hit two this week, but was rivaled by his fellow first baseman, Jordan Lennerton, who matched him, and by top prospect Brantly, who hit two as well.

To round out the eight, Avisail Garcia, while amassing 12 hits in 28 at-bats, added one of his own, while Daniel Fields hit one as well.

On a side-note: Fields, who has been under specific scrutiny over the past weeks for his undisciplined bat and fielding mistakes, was only 5-for-24 this week, but only struck out three times this week. He's becoming a bit more patient and, if this week proves to be even a slight portent, things might be turning around.

In complement to the home runs, RBI flowed at a steady rate.

One of the biggest stories of the week was that, in addition to two homers, Tony Plagman, who was rivaled by few in driving in runs, is now unrivaled.

With the help of a five RBI game on the 29th vs. Fort Myers, Plagman drove in ten runs this week and is now the single best run produced in the FSL.

He grabbed the lead and it extended it pretty quickly, and is six ahead of Daytona Justin Bour, and eight ahead of ex-Bradenton first baseman Aaron Baker.

Baker is now in the Carolina League playing for the Orioles organization.

As Plagman stated late last week, he see's Lakeland continuing on into the playoffs with himself continuing to drive in runs. Lakeland has lost table-setting outfielder Brent Wyatt to double-A Erie, but if Plagman and spark Brently can continue their hitting, and the pitching can return to form, Plagman's forecast should be proven true.

Plagman RBI watch: 81.

Pitching in a slightly rough patch

It didn't seem like an auspicious beginning to the week when ace Drew Smyly followed the footsteps of Jay Voss and was promoted to double-A Erie, and, unfortunately, the week turned out the way it seemed it would.

It wasn't an utter desertion of their usual consistency, though, as, woven into their big wins were a few solid starts. But, with Smyly gone and his replacement Brian Stroud (1-4, 2.76 ERA in the GCL), there were also a few disappointments.

Brian Stroud, in his first start for Lakeland, which came on the 30th vs. Fort Myers, allowed six earned runs in as many innings, and Trevor Fenney, against Palm Beach, allowed six earned over four.

Shawn Teufel, who could very well be considered the team's new #1, went seven innings while allowing two while supported by 15 Lakeland hits.

The smoothest note for the staff this week, though, was Kenny Faulk's return to dominance. It is certainly only a small sample size, but in 1.2 innings Faulk was perfect with two strikeouts. He continues to look to reclaim the closer role from Matt Little.

Looking ahead

Lakeland plays a wild schedule in the next week. Like, really wild.

On Thursday and Friday Lakeland plays a game in Daytona, and then travels to Brevard County for a Saturday evening game.

Over the next two days, Lakeland then plays four total games (2 consecutive double-headers) at Brevard to make up for rainouts on June 24th and 25th.

The Tigers then return home for five straight home games—three vs. Daytona, and two vs. Brevard.

Making moves

Lakeland lost both Drew Smyly and Brent Wyatt to Erie this week, but acquired pitcher Brian Stroud from the Gulf Coast.

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