West Mich MLN: One Last Bid for Playoff Berth

West Michigan used this past week to climb up the standings ladder and inch towards a coveted second half playoff berth. Ripping off four wins going back to last Wednesday and winners of eight of their last twelve contests, the Whitecaps find themselves only two games back in the playoff race.

The Whitecaps, with exception to Tuesday's ugly loss, have played all-around good baseball lately, which obviously shows in their recent surge. According to Pitching Coach Mark Johnson, "everyone is competing and putting their best foot forward while playing their hearts out. It's all you can ask at this time of year."

Indeed it is and different guys have been stepping up big when needed. Jason King belted a pair of taters Monday, his first multi-home run game in his professional career and led his team to a 5-3 win.

Kyle Ryan tossed six strong innings Sunday en route to a big 7-2 victory. Even though he's had a bit of an inconsistent second half, his last two outings have been superb. Attacking the strike zone, getting ground ball outs and mixing up his pitches have resulted in no earned runs in his last eight innings on the slab. He also kept the opposing average to .188 and .143 respectively.

Marcelo Carreno pitched five innings in his last start, allowing a single run and collecting his eighth win of the year. What a difference a year makes, noted Johnson, when his ERA was upwards of 4.55 compared to this season – a much improved 3.38.

"I believe he's become more of a pitcher," analyzed Johnson. "Last year he was young – which he still is now – but he was more of a thrower. He's got a great arm but he's starting to use his secondary pitches and that has helped him get deeper into ballgames."

And it was a complete team effort on Friday to muster a come-from behind four-run deficit win to avoid a crippling loss to Fort Wayne, the team that currently sits just ahead of West Michigan in the playoff picture.

Ferrell Continues to Improve

The month of August has been good to the right-hander from North Carolina. Before last night's loss, he was 3-0 with a jaw-dropping ERA of 0.59, striking out 23 batters in contrast to walking only five. Johnson attributed Ferrell's recent success to more consistency on the hill.

"I think he's been more consistent with his pitches down in the zone and he's been able to make his adjustments quicker. It's helped him become a better overall, all-around pitcher as he's been able to throw more pitches over the plate."

Doing an exceptional job of executing his pitches and walking hitters less – last year he walked 12 in an injury shortened 28 inning season – Ferrell has cut down on free passes given out walking 28 through 87 innings, improving over ten percent in his walk to innings pitched ratio. Needless to say, the Tigers needn't worry about the progress thus far that he's shown as a Tommy John survivor.

Getting a Glimpse of the Majors

West Michigan got a taste of the Major Leagues last night in Dayton. Batting third and playing first base for the home team Dragons was 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto, starting in a rehab assignment from the Reds. The Whitecaps were able to see first-hand how an All-Star goes about his business on the field.

Votto went 0-1 with a strikeout and a walk.

Ernie Young will hope to continue seeing his squad compete and win ballgames as only six contests remain on the schedule. Three more games on the road starting tonight against Fort Wayne will hold plenty of playoff implications as the ‘Caps hope to catch and perhaps surpass the TinCaps in the standings.

Rounding out the regular season, West Michigan finishes at home in a three game-set against Dayton.

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