West Mich MLN: Hot Start to Second Half

Picking up right where they left off following the All-Star Break, the ‘Caps stormed out of the gate with a 7-1 victory over South Bend for the first game of the second half of the season.

The offensive momentum was short lived; however, as West Michigan's offense sputtered in back to back losses the next two nights.

The Whitecaps' loss on Sunday, a 4-2 defeat to South Bend, marked the first series loss in seven tries – the first series' loss since dropping two of three to Lake County during the stretch of May 23-25.

The loss was a frustrating game for the ‘Caps and brought back striking resemblances to their struggles during the early part of this season. A 1-15 collective performance at the plate with runners in scoring position, a runner on base in each inning resulting in ten men left on and a 2-0 early deficit in the first inning is what doomed the boys in blue and white. Starter Kyle Ryan may have had reason to be most disappointed as he was handcuffed with the loss after pitching through six innings while allowing all four runs.

The Whitecaps then proved that they have a short memory and went out the next two days hitting the ball like crazy scoring six runs and then 13 Tuesday night in a wild 13-11 finish over Bowling Green. Each team had frames where they scored six runs and the two combined for 30 hits in the game.

Shuffling the Roster

A lot of activity has taken place with the ‘Caps' roster during the month of June and especially over the past week, including a Lakeland call-up of catcher Curt Casali. Through 49 games, he was batting .289 while producing 25 RBI off 50 hits. The void caused by Casali's absence will be filled now by catchers Patrick Leyland, Gabriel Purroy and recently acquired Zach Maggard from Toledo.

Maggard made his presence in West Michigan known early in Monday night's win against Bowling Green. In the bottom of the seventh inning and leading a tight game 3-1, Maggard delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single that opened the game up for the ‘Caps and laid the ground work for their eventual 6-1 victory.

Outfielder Luis Castillo has also rejoined the Whitecaps for the start of the second half of the season transferring from Lakeland. Castillo started hot and is batting .363 with eight hits, six RBI and already six runs scored. The newly obtained outfielder batting leadoff for the time being has the ‘Caps' season leadoff woes held at bay, a position in the lineup where infielder Brandon Loy had been struggling as of late.

2012 draft pick Slade Smith joined the Whitecaps after transferring from Connecticut and saw action right away in two innings of scoreless work Monday where he was awarded the hold after giving up only one hit.

The ‘Caps were able to activate Chad Wright from the Disabled List and hope for him to build on his .238 average accumulated from the first half of the season. Dean Green still rides the bench on the DL and the Whitecaps are itching for his bat and .306 average to return to the lineup.

Also joining the ‘Caps earlier in June was Lance Durham, who's already seen 12 games of action. The Cincinnati native is excited to be in West Michigan and hopes he can help the team continue its momentum gained from the end of the first half hopefully leading to a coveted playoff spot.

"I want to win some games and get to the playoffs," said Durham. "They say that the good teams in the minor leagues have the players that make it to the big leagues and it's because they're on the good teams. So let's just try and keep winning to give ourselves a shot at the playoffs."

In order to do so, manager Ernie Young lays out a fairly simple blueprint.

"Capitalizing on the other team's mistakes and getting clutch hits – that's the key to any game," said Young. "When we're able to do that and string together a few hits, we're going to have multiple innings with runs scored, ultimately leading to winning ballgames."

Looking for a Little Revenge

During the Whitecaps' late charge for the last of two playoff spots in the first half, Bowling Green played just a little bit better and in the end snagged the second playoff berth ahead of the ‘Caps. Entering the three game series at Fifth Third Ballpark Monday night, the Hot Rods were still one of the teams to beat as they led the Midwest League in hitting and were second overall in pitching.

But the ‘Caps were able to cool the hot bats belonging to Bowling Green with the series opening 6-1 victory. The win snapped Bowling Green's six game winning streak and was the first defeat for the visiting team in the second half of the season. West Michigan currently enjoys a 6-2 season-series advantage over Bowling Green, the only team in the division with a winning record over the Eastern Division wild card team.

The ‘Caps will look to build on their winning record and try for the series sweep against Bowling Green tonight to wrap up a three game series and a six game homestand before hitting the road the following night for six games on the road.

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