Baseball is a momentum game because of how often it's played and West Michigan struggled to establish it. Even though the ‘Caps outscored their opposition during their six game road trip, a 2-4 record was all they had to show for it returning home. Coming off of a 4-2 homestand the week before, one might guess that West Michigan was finally ready to accelerate into high gear.
Unfortunately, last week's box scores tell us otherwise. With five weeks remaining in the regular season and his team falling to five and a half games below first place, outfielder Jeff McVaney knows as well as anyone that they need to regain their focus as the season winds down.
"Everybody needs to get that last bit of focus going," expressed McVaney, "and just start winning ballgames. We need to keep going out there and have fun as a team and hopefully by doing that we can pull out some wins."
Over last week's road trip, the Kansas State product hit for a blistering .480 average. That figure has come a long way from his efforts in the first half of the year where he barely stayed above the Mendoza Line at .201. Some of that may have attributed to him coming fresh off another injury but needless to say, he's gotten a lot more comfortable this half and his .387 post All-Star game batting average proves it.
Starting pitcher Kyle Ryan tried to get the wheels back on track the other night and though he pitched better, getting the no decision after five innings of work allowing two runs, the ‘Caps dropped their fourth in a row. Prior to his start Tuesday, Ryan was coming off a three and 2/3 inning performance where he allowed five runs off eight hits.
That start was forlornly a continuation of his second half woes because since the All-Star break, he's compiled a 1-4 record with a 4.95 ERA, a far outcry from his first half statistics. Prior to the Midwest League midsummer classic, the lefty from Florida had tallied a reputable 4-2 mark with a much more respectable 3.74 ERA.
The Whitecaps have welcomed back starter Brennan Smith from the disabled list who they hope to see build on his 1-4 record through 13 appearances. He hasn't pitched since June 30 but surely the ‘Caps anticipate Smith back out on the mound again soon to potentially flash the talent he showed early last year in the New York-Penn League, warranting his call-up to West Michigan towards the end of last season.
In order to make room on the roster for Smith, reliever Ramon Lebron was transferred to Connecticut. Even though showing impressive stuff over his last two appearances – five innings pitched, no runs allowed and four strike outs – the Tigers feel it's best for Lebron to continue working at the short-season level where he can hopefully develop his breaking ball a bit more.
West Michigan returned home last night for the start of a short four game series versus Lake County – the team the Whitecaps will play more than any other this season – and hit the road Saturday for the first of seven games away from Fifth Third Ballpark.
With more games away than at home to wrap up the 2012 campaign, the ‘Caps will have to perform better on the road than they did last week or come September, they're going to have a lot more free time than what they're accustom to.