Pitching their way to the Top
The bats were able to muster 25 runs off 39 hits this past week. Tremendous pitching remained their recipe for success though, as Lakeland's stingy staff allowed just 13 runs. And, to be fair, eight of those runs came in a blowout loss Saturday evening after a six run fifth inning.
Across the board, Lakeland received solid contributions from all members of their rotation. Beyond the usual suspects, the back end of the rotation has performed particularly well the last couple weeks. Specifically, Brian Stroud tossed five innings of shutout ball on Sunday, lowering his ERA to 2.83 on the season.
"I'd attribute my success to just following the game plan and listening to Mike [Maroth]. He has just been emphasizing staying low in the zone and working on getting guys out in 3 pitches or less," said Stroud.
Stroud notes his mechanical adjustments and hard work in EST as contributing factors for his success this season.
"During spring training and into extended spring training I made a few adjustments to my mechanics and that has paid huge dividends for my control this year."
Rounding things out--aside from a couple rotten apples--the bullpen continues to put up zeros, keeping the Flying Tigers in games and in the hunt for the playoffs. The continued success of the pitching staff will be important if the Flying Tigers intend on playing meaningful ball in August and September.
Flynn Figuring Things Out
"Today was the best I've felt all year long," said Brian Flynn after his start on Monday.
The Palm Beach Cardinals were no match for the 22-year-old as Flynn tossed seven shutout innings, scattering three hits, striking out six and walking none.
"I had the release points for all four of my pitches and my fastball had good life on it. Curt [Casali] and I work extremely well together and we were on the same page all day. I didn't shake him off once."
After swapping gems and stinkers throughout most of May and June, Flynn has quietly emerged as one of Lakeland's most reliable arms. Since the All-Star Break, the 6'8" southpaw is 3-0 with a sparkling 2.43 ERA over 29 2/3 innings--five starts. His recent success has improved his record to 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA over 102 innings.
Flynn had this to say when asked about his post All-Star Break production.
"I've worked on keeping my mechanics quiet so I keep good fastball command. I've also been working on throwing my off-speed pitches for strikes early in the count. They have been effective for me when I needed guys to chase but when batters realized I wasn't throwing them for strikes they would sit fastball and that was getting me hurt. The feel for those pitches continues to come around and that has helped me a lot lately."
Consistency and the development of Flynn's secondary offerings are the keys to both his personal future and the success of this team. It's evident in both his words and his work ethic that Flynn understands this as he strives to perfect his craft and win ball games.
"Today is a great sign and I'm ready to get back out there and help us win ball games down the stretch."
Clark Picking Up Right Where Rondon Left Off
Bruce Rondon's promotion to AA-Erie left big shoes to filled in the closers role of the Lakeland bullpen.
Enter Tyler Clark.
"I have confidence that any one of our guys could fill the role and do well," said Clark. But, I am definitely enjoying it and feel blessed for the opportunity."
You see, Clark hasn't allowed a run since June 3rd--a span of 12 1/3 innings. During that span, the 23-year-old has racked up 20 strikeouts and recorded six saves.
His success doesn't end there either. Clark lowered his ERA to a microscopic 0.79 and 0.90 WHIP after notching his sixth and seventh saves of the season this past week. He tops all FSL relievers with a .143 opponents' batting average and his 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings are second best on the circuit.
In short, this has been a special year for Clark.
"I'm very glad for the success I have had to this point."
"I need to keep working hard, continue to learn how to read and set up hitters, and pound the bottom of the strike zone."
Much of Clark's success has been a direct result of hard work and dedication. The addition of a cut-fastball, courtesy of pitching coach Mike Maroth, has helped him keep hitters off balance, generating more ground balls. That, coupled with a noticeable increase in velocity (now touching the mid-90s) has paid dividends in the right-handers development this season.
Still, Clark realizes there is plenty of work to be done.
"There will always be something I can get better at or learn in this game. But I am confident in my abilities and that I can be successful at the major league level one day."
Being a 24th round selection, it's fair to say that Clark might have to prove himself a bit more than the next guy. Regardless, his development and numbers cannot be ignored. He's putting in the work, so it's time we give him the credit.
Tonight Lakeland hands the ball to southpaw Jared Wesson in game three of their four-game set with Palm Beach. Wesson, 0-1 with a 3.79 ERA, has logged back-to-back quality starts, lasting seven innings both outings. Southpaw Alex Burgos is slated to pitch the series finale on Wednesday. Burgos is a perfect 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in the month of July.
The Flying Tigers return home to Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday for a four-game series against the Miracle. Lakeland looks to feast on a Fort Myers team that's under .500 and just 3-7 their last ten games.
Lakeland will then battle the first place Yankees four times over three days in an important home and away series, beginning with a doubleheader on Monday in Tampa.
James R. Chipman is the Lakeland Flying Tigers correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.