MLN: West Michigan Runs Empty on Road Trip

Rewinding four months back to the beginning of the season, no one would have predicted the decline of West Michigan's play during the second half.

Going back July 29, Whitecaps young 19 year old ace Mauricio Robles— in his fifth start at home and ninth appearance overall— threw seven innings, giving up one hit to match his season-high in strikeouts with seven and extend his scoreless streak at home to 39 2/3 innings. Even though the ‘Caps out hit the Cedar Rapids Kernels 11 to 5, they ended up losing the contest 5-3 in 11 innings.

"This is one of the most disappointing losses this season because we played decent," Whitecaps Manager Joe DePastino said. "But we beat ourselves on little mental mistakes all three games. They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves."

This game alone would set the precedent for the rest of the week.

July 30th, the 'Caps started things out right in Davenport, Iowa, when outfielder Chris White went 3-for-3 in his West Michigan debut to lead the 'Caps to a 7-2 win over Quad Cities to start off a double-header. During the slamboree, Ronnie Bourquin added a double with two runs scored, while teammate Jordan Newton drove in three RBI that gave them the early 5-0 lead. Jonathan Kibler tossed a beauty going 6.2 innings to improve his record to 11-4.

West Michigan would drop not only the second game of the double-header, but the next four straight. August 3, the Kane County Cougars would have the last laugh on the road as they finished their season series sweep of the 'Caps in a 7-1 beat down.

NOTE: Whitecaps hitting coach Benny Distefano served out his three game suspension during the Quad Cities Series. The suspension was handed down by Midwest League President George Spelius for an incident that occurred during a rain delay July 21 against Burlington.

Then something odd happened. The Detroit Tigers made a trade. July 31, in what was known to fans as "The head-scratch heard around Michigan", they traded Ivan Rodriguez to the New York Yankees for the once Tiger Kyle Farnsworth. This indeed put a ripple effect throughout the farm almost immediately from the words, "Done deal". Traveling catcher Adrian Casanova was promoted to High-A Lakeland, while catcher Angel Flores was promoted to the 'Caps from Oneonta. Right hand pitcher Lauren Gagnier— who has pitched for Toledo and the SeaWolves this year— was added back to the Whitecaps' roster. During his stint in Toledo he went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA, and on July 10 he started for Double-A Erie where he finished 2-2 and posted a 12.91 ERA.

With a devastating four game slide, the 'Caps fought back August 5 and shutout the Great Lakes Loons 5-0 in a game that was clearly ruled by number one starter Jon Kibler. The southpaw pitched seven perfect innings before Great Lakes' Erik Kanaby hit a blooper to shallow left field. Kibler faced 28 batters-- one more than the minimum-- in his near perfect game Tuesday night. The win was his second two-hit complete game of the season and his twelfth overall win.

Nevertheless, the 'Caps still sit in third place in the Eastern Division at 56-55. With a quandary of roster moves and new faces in the rotation every week— since the end of June— the ‘Caps are finding it hard to start any momentum; hence, why they're still around the .500 range.


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