West Mich MLN: ‘Caps Continue Skid

Following a tough road trip posting a 2-5 record, the Whitecaps returned home and continued to struggle. Two more losses Saturday and Monday to South Bend marked their fourth straight series loss and dropped them at a season worst five games below even.

A significant factor in the squad's latest woes can be found with their inability of late to get off the field with two outs. To say the ‘Caps have struggled to close out innings may be an understatement as 21 of the 36 runs allowed during their road trip crossed the plate with two outs. This tendency continued at home when the Whitecaps gave up four of their six runs with two outs in the inning to South Bend in Monday's defeat.

It might be this statistic that plays the largest role in the ‘Caps having lost 13 of 19 games decided by only a single run, something that even recently activated pitcher Jeff Ferrell knows his team is tired of.

"We're staying in the game and we just have to keep playing hard and it's going to start clicking soon. I haven't been here that long but I know we've lost a lot of one run games and I hear my teammates and coaches talking about it."

Working Overtime

Last week the Whitecaps played in a game of epic magnitude. Taking on the Great Lakes Loons on the road, the ‘Caps battled for 16 long innings before eventually suffering a 6-5 loss. But the defeat didn't come before these franchise records were set: longest game time (5:22), most strikeouts by the pitching staff (21) and most runners left on base (21).

Green's Got the Hot Stick

Apparently infielder Dean Green is not letting the losing skid affect his approach at the plate. The 6-foot-4, 255 pound power hitter hit safely in five of his team's last seven games collecting 12 hits and five RBI for a .285 batting average, good for third best on the team.

On Saturday, Green turned in the best performance of the week with a four hit night going 4-for-5 at the plate with a pair of doubles and an RBI.

On the flip side, after a hot start to the season, first baseman Aaron Westlake has cooled down immensely. In the last ten games, Westlake has struck out 12 times and is batting a meager .189. Fellow infielder Jason King has also had a difficult time in settling in after returning from an ACL injury a couple weeks ago. In that span, he's gone 10-for-70 at the plate for a .143 average including a 0-for-8 performance against the Loons in the 16 inning marathon.

Starters Doing Work

Even though their record might not show it, the Whitecaps have been able to get decent starts from their starting pitchers who have been able to eat up innings allowing the bullpen to stay fresh.

With exception to yesterday's game in which starter Brennan Smith lasted only 3.2 innings, ‘Caps starters toed 30 innings on the mound over the past week allowing 16 runs and for the most part, are keeping the team in games before handing the ball off to the relievers.

Manager Ernie Young cites a highly competitive team, including those on his starting rotation, for a big reason why they have performed well.

"It's contagious – hitting is contagious and pitching is contagious. This is a very competitive team sport but you can be competitive with each other. If I'm the starting pitcher and I go 7 innings tonight then guess what, the next starting pitcher wants to go 8 the next night."

The past week's starts were highlighted by a stellar outing from Wilsen Palacios who may have pitched his best game of the season last Thursday. The right handed Venezuelan retired 18 of the first batters he faced and did not allow a runner past first base through six innings. His final stat-line read seven innings pitched, two runs off five hits and five strikeouts for his third win on the year.

The ‘Caps enjoyed a day off yesterday but take action again tonight against Lake County continuing a season-long ten game homestand at Fifth Third Ballpark.

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