In their first home game back, the Whitecaps let South Bend slip by in a 2-1 pitcher's duel. Lauren Gagnier didn't allow a single hit against the Silver Hawks until the fifth inning. With a runner on, South Bend's Eli Rumler hit a grounder to Cory Middleton at third base. With what seemed like perfection turned into misery, as the cleanly fielded ball was wildly thrown by Middleton to set up what would be South Bend's advance. In a pitcher's duel there is one thing clear during those kind of games, no offensive performances. That's certainly what happened to the ill fated ‘Caps to set the tone for the remainder of the week.
On a bright note, August 10 brought birthday boy Jon Kibler his 13th win, and another year older at 22. Kibler allowed two runs over six innings pitched; retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced to claim the top spot of victories for all Midwest League pitchers. If his candle blowing wish comes true, he could claim the Pitcher of The Year and put the ‘Caps in contention of winning the Midwest League. The supporting cast of Justin Henry, Ronnie Bourquin, Alex Avila and Joe Tucker gave the ‘Caps well enough ammunition to spark their 8-2 win at Fifth Third Ball park.
The Whitecaps manage to squeeze out wins here and there averaging at least two every week. This is not enough, however. They sit second to last place in the Eastern Division, 8.5 games out of first place in the second half standings. Their offense is lagging and Kibler alone is carrying their pitching more often than not. Since Rudy Darrow's departure, the team's bullpen has sank into oblivion showing no sign of a hero willing to compensate for what they have lost already. Is it time to hit the panic button in West Michigan?
Justin Henry is keeping the ‘Caps alive on offense with his consistent bats. He's batting .301 with 40 RBI and a team leading 21 doubles. 2008 draft pick, Alex Avila is becoming more comfortable in the lineup. He's hitting .288 on the season and is dominant with bases empty batting .379, but when it counts most he fails to step up to the occasion batting only .178 with runners on and a whopping .167 with runners in scoring position.
Outfielder Christopher White is proving to DePastino that he wants to be in the everyday lineup. He is slowly providing for the ‘Caps, but one must wonder if it's too late for his heroics at this point.
The Whitecaps will finish up two season series' this week against Lansing at home and then South Bend on the road. This week is going to be quite a make it or break it week for West Michigan. Can they rise to the challenge?