Lakeland MLN: Playoff Chances Slipping Away

The Flying Tigers finished the past week 4-3 —on the better side of its usual weekly split— but, although exhibiting better play, Lakeland, at 22-27, still finds its chances of a playoff berth slim.

While the top of the division has switched and shuffled a bit in the past week, Lakeland still sits at the bottom. Instead of chasing first-place Tampa, Lakeland's far sights are now set upon Dunedin (29-23), who has surpassed the Yankees and Threshers. With only 21 games left in its division, Lakeland's chances of sneaking into the playoffs continue to shrink by the day. They're 5.5 games back, and their elimination number is 13.

A week of seven inning games

Continuing from last week and the week before that, Lakeland's second half of the season continues to be plagued by rain and its ensuing washouts.

Take a look at this past week:

On Thursday Lakeland played a double-header against Daytona. On Friday, played 1.5 games vs. Brevard County, followed by 1.5 games on Saturday. On Sunday, one game of a double-header vs. Brevard County was postponed. And, finally, on Wednesday's all-you-can-eat night vs. Tampa, rains washed out another game, which will be played as part of a double-header Thursday.

Of the Flying Tigers's seven games this week, six were concluded at the end of seven innings (as is standard protocol in single-A double-headers).

Hot bats wading the water

But, while there have been times where rainouts have proven to, at times, kill Lakeland's momentum, a few of the bats in the lineup have continued to scorch. Overall, for a week where seven games were only comprised of 51 innings, Lakeland still produced enough offense that would seem to fit a standard week.

Perhaps because of its now steady stream of home runs. Lakeland shot another seven home runs over the fences while continuing to level out their power numbers for the season. They're still 9th in the FSL in home runs with 73, and 31 behind first-place Dunedin, but over the past month have experienced a power surge.

They added another seven this week, one per game, and added 36 runs to their season total.

Aside from their usual production (i.e. Plagman, Lennerton, Gaynor), one half of Lakeland's young outfield duo has steadily begun to improve play. While Daniel Fields is still struggling at .221 (although he did homer this week), Avisail Garcia has begun to solidify.

After going 7-for-24 over the past seven while adding a homer, Garcia has slowly raised his average to an improved .265.

He still strikes out too much—a ghastly 117 times compared to 17 walks—but if he can improve his approach and patience at the plate, could produce a big year next year for whatever level he's at.

He's stolen 14 bases this year, and compared to TigsTown's rankings, is the strongest fielding outfielder in the organization.

Delmon Young acquired

The biggest news of the week throughout the organization was Detroit's acquisition of Delmon Young in hopes of powering up their lineup for their playoff run the rest of the season. But, while most people just read "Delmon Young traded to Tigers for two minor-leaguers", Lakeland fans know that Cole Nelson was one of them.

The southpaw Nelson is considered to have decent upside but never really hit stride this season.

Before leaving for the Twins organization, Nelson was 5-11 with a 4.87 ERA for Lakeland. Offenses were also hitting .299 against him in the 26 games he appeared.

So far for Fort Myers, Nelson has allowed two earned runs in one inning pitched.

To replace Nelson, Lakeland acquired a familiar face. Nate Newman was transferred to Lakeland from West Michigan.

Making moves

Along with Nate Newman, Lakeland acquired pitcher Victor Larez from West Michigan. They also acquired C Jeff Kunkel from triple-A Toledo, and 2b Carlos De Lost Santos from the Gulf Cost League.

They replaced Jared Gayhart, who was sent to Lakeland from Erie and then returned to Erie five days later, and Ryan Robowski, who was resent to Erie.

Looking forward

Lakeland's schedule continues to give them opportunities. Their next three series' are all against the three top teams in the division.

On Thursday they play two vs. Tampa, and then host Clearwater for three straight.

After an off-day on Monday, Lakeland travels to first-place Dunedin for a three-game set.

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