West Mich MLN: Solid Pitching Carries 'Caps

The beginning of this past week marked one of the warmest days for a baseball game that the ‘Caps have enjoyed thus far, and they responded after returning home following a rough road trip. Scoring five runs in an inning, tying the most runs they've tallied in a single frame all year, the Whitecaps opened the week with a much needed 8-4 win over Fort Wayne.

Highlighting the win was the performance of right hander Wilsen Palacios who registered his first win of the season. Pitching six strong innings, the Venezuelan native allowed four runs – three of which came in the top half of the seventh inning.

"Of course it was good to see him get a good start," said manager Ernie Young. "He got a little tired in the top half of the seventh inning but other than that, I thought he pitched a very good game."

Also contributing was first year ‘Cap Patrick Leyland who extended his hitting streak that night to seven games – he would later see the streak snapped at eight games – collecting a pair of hits and three RBI.

"He's [Leyland] gone out there and he's competitive at the plate which is what you want to do," says Young of his catcher who splits time with fellow teammate Curt Casali. "He's going out there and competing at each at bat."

The Whitecaps were also happy to see the Tigers' 2011 fourth round draft pick, third baseman Jason King, join the lineup after a season ending ACL injury cut short his professional debut in the New York-Penn League last year. Ranked 14th in the TigsTown 2012 Prospect Handbook, the ‘Caps hope to see him show off his athleticism in the hot corner and display his power at both sides of the plate as the season progresses.

Hovering Near the .500 Mark

After sitting at or below .500 since April 18 when they were 7-6, the ‘Caps jumped up one game after taking the first two against Fort Wayne. It was short lived, however, as the next three games were dropped. The ‘Caps were able to split a four game series with Lansing to now sit at an even 16-16 on the year.

Local Rivalry in the Making

Less than an hour east of Comstock Park is home to the league leading Lansing Lugnuts. Meeting for the second time this season, West Michigan was out played by their counterpart in games one and two and were desperately in need of a win to keep from losing too much ground in the standings.

"You want to play well," said Young regarding their games against the Lugnuts. "We've lost a couple of games this season by one run [to Lansing], but you always want to have an opportunity to win against a team that's ahead of you. You obviously don't want to get too far behind."

The one run games he was referring to was the fact that before Monday's contest, five of their six meetings were decided by a single score with neither team holding leads greater than two runs.

Monday proved to be different in a good way. The ‘Caps broke open a 1-1 stalemate with a four run eighth inning and rode the arm of another strong performance by Palacios. Seven innings pitched, one run and five strikeouts read the final box score at the end of the night for Palacios who propelled the Whitecaps to the 5-1 victory.

Riding the momentum from the night before, the visiting ‘Caps slapped a season-high 15 hits to pull out a late game thriller after scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth. Leyland led the charge knocking three hits with a double and an RBI.

Superb Starters

Going 4-3 over the past week, starting pitching played a large role in that record. Over that stretch, the starting rotation amassed a 2-1 record with an average ERA of 3.51. Also, the ‘Caps were able to get at least six innings of work out of their starters in five of the games.

With so many close games and hard fought contests, starter Brennan Smith talks about his levels of focus in a tight matchup.

"There's no change in your focus when it's a close game," says Smith. "It's when you have the bigger leads that it's harder to stay focused. But you just have to do your best and stick with your game plan. Keep the ball low and locate your pitches."

What Lies Ahead

West Michigan returns home this evening to take on the Great Lakes Loons in a three game set before once again heading on the road for an extended seven game road trip against Fort Wayne and the Loons.

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