TigsTown MLN: Playoff Time for 'Caps

Being that they are the only Tigers' minor league team in a playoff hunt, the ‘Caps are looking to prove their season wasn't a waste.

They started off August 28, losing to last place Great Lakes 12-1. The Loons scored 11 runs in the fourth inning to give them a franchise record, while the ‘Caps' plate performance made Loons' pitcher Kieran Mattison look like big league material. Audy Ciriaco drove in Kyle Peter in the ninth inning to provide West Michigan's lone run.

August 29, the ‘Caps found their bats and took Dayton to the cleaners in a 5-0 shutdown, giving right-hand pitcher Thad Weber his first professional win. Joe Tucker put the ‘Caps on the board 2-0 with a two-run single to make him the seventh Whitecap this season with 40 RBI. This was the tenth shutout of the season by the Whitecaps.

August 30 brought contagious smiles to West Michigan. Alex Avila set the pace in the first inning by knocking his first professional career home run in the first inning. Jordan Newton went deep in the fifth inning and finished his day going 3-for-4 with double, a walk and a run scored. Kody Kaiser brought in two runs including a double in the first two innings to give him—a team leading— 52 RBI this season. Mauricio Robles started on the hill and in the 3.2 innings pitched, he struck out six batters. Paul Nardozzi would come in the fourth and pitch four perfect innings to earn the 7-3 victory over Dayton.

August 31 belonged to Newton. The Kentucky native was a contributing factor for every run West Michigan scored. Newton grounded out to advance Chris Carlson to third, setting Roger Tomas up to knock the big first baseman in to give the ‘Caps the 1-0 lead in the second inning. When Dayton pulled ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Newton led off the sixth inning with a solo shot for a ‘Caps 4-2 lead. As the game stretched into extra innings, it was Newton who hit the sacrifice fly to bring in Chris White for the 5-4 victory. Noah Krol pitched a flawless tenth inning to earn his 15th save on the season, and giving him 12 straight completed save attempts.

September 1, the ‘Caps ended their season on a sour note by losing to Dayton 5-4. Aaron Furhman picked up his first professional loss of his career.

During their day off (September 2), a pair of great news came West Michigan's way. Kody Kaiser was named MWL Player of the Week for the week of August 25-September 1. The switch-hitter hit .423 (11-for-26) with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBI in this past week's stretch. Kaiser was the seventh Whitecap this season to garnish the award; the most by a ‘Cap since 1997 when they won eight.

The next piece of good news came when the Detroit Tigers extended their Players Development Contract with West Michigan through 2014. The contract was originally going to end in 2010, but since their start in 1997, the ‘Caps have provided the Tigers with more than enough ammo in their Farm System. To date, 11 players of Toledo's 30-man roster were once Whitecaps. Other players the team has produced in recent years has been: Brandon Inge, Robert Fick, Joel Zumaya, Matt Joyce, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Rayburn, Cameron Maybin, Jeff Weaver, along with managers Bruce Fields, Phil Regan, Matt Walbeck and Tom Brookens.

In the 12 years West Michigan has been a Tigers affiliate, they've had a 932-729 (.561) record, won five Midwest League Championships and made the playoffs nine times, including five straight seasons since 2004.

The playoffs began yesterday, September 3. South Bend used a pair of first round picks, Jarrod Parker and Daniel Schlereth, to retired 16 straight batters during the error-happy playoff game to give them a 1-0 series lead on West Michigan. Audy Ciriaco—who had a mind blowing 42 errors during the regular season— made a throwing and fielding error to kick off his playoff start with two errors. Jonathan Kibler had one during a pick off attempt and Chris Carlson produced two at first base. The Whitecaps and Silver Hawks had a combined 11 errors in yesterday's contest. However, the Silver Hawks' Sean Coughlin drove in two to lead South Bend to the 5-3 victory over the ‘Caps. Kibler picked up the loss, going four innings with three runs on eight hits, while walking one and striking out five.

One must wonder if the ‘Caps put too much pressure on their pitching staff to carry them through the playoffs. Andrew Hess will make the start for West Michigan tonight.

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