If it was any ‘Caps' week it was Luke Putkonen's. His two starts this past week were of phenomenal proportions, but could only gather a 1-1 record in West Michigan's six-straight away games in Wisconsin.
In his first start, Putkonen went seven innings, allowing three hits, one run one walk and five strikeouts. He battled Wisconsin's Cody Scarpetta, who gave the Timber Rattlers (11-7) their fourth win of the year against the ‘Caps. West Michigan is still having a hard time trying to figure out how to beat the ‘Rattlers this season. Their record currently against them is 1-4.
In Putkonen's second start of the week (July 13th), he tossed another seven strong innings, allowing only one run, one walk and seven strikeouts. However this time he would garnish the win, 7-3 against Beloit and split the six-game road trip two games-to-one. In this clutch performance, the right-hander's most memorable moment was a pitch he didn't even strike anyone out. Instead, he did his job and played smart baseball. When Beloit's Nate Hanson led off with a single, and the game was in reach of the Snappers at this point, Putkonen got one strikeout before letting his fielders take control. With enough juice he could muster, Putkonen delivered his final pitch low enough to force the batter into a double play that took out the lead runner Hanson and the air out of Beloit. That game would show just how smart of a pitcher Putkonen really is. His next scheduled start is July 19th at home against Kane County.
Let's not forget about the offense. Three players are dominating the month of July. Third baseman Bryan Pounds is hitting .361 (13-for-36) with 15 RBI and 10 runs scored in his last nine games. Centerfielder Ben Guez is batting .333 (14-for-42) with 11 RBI and nine runs scored with a home run in his last 10 games. Last but certainly not least is left fielder Billy Nowlin who is batting an outstanding .389 (14-for-36) with nine RBI and seven runs scored in 10 games. These three are the "trio of terror" in manager Joe DePastino's lineup, and have taken advantage of the second half of the season. Most opposing pitchers end up walking one of trio at some point in the game.
July 10, West Michigan's first home playoff date was announced. The game will take place Thursday, September 10 at 7:00 p.m. And get this, the first 1,000 fans will receive a Jeremy Bonderman bobblehead. Why? The best guess on that one would be because they have overstock of those cheap plastic things from when he pitched at Fifth Third ballpark last. I bet they make a great paperweight.
On July 14 Gustavo Nunez was suspended indefinitely by Detroit for "conduct detrimental to the organization." With his departure, this will leave a large hole in the lineup. Nunez was a key leadoff man for the ‘Caps and was their best base-stealer. Outfielder Brent Wyatt will take over the leadoff spot for now. The promoted Herman Perez will be placed at shortstop, but don't be surprised if DePastino places Brandon Douglas there either. Douglas was drafted as a shortstop and has very good range.
So here we are in the season. The ‘Caps are sitting in second place, the pitching staff is solid and the bats are, shall I say in Red Sox terms, "wicked awesome." The unique part about this-- compared to the major leagues-- is that West Michigan already has a playoff spot. They're in. So what now? At this point the ‘Caps know they must maintain winning so they don't lose momentum entering the playoffs. Lets just hope they can keep the same team by that time with out promotions, injuries or god-awful suspensions.