It was a mind boggling week for the Lakeland Flying Tigers. They allowed an average of seven runs a game, even though they through a shut out. The offense was shut out twice even with a major leaguer in the lineup. Yet, at the end of the week, they were one bad inning away from being over .500.
They had one of the most amazing statistical accomplishments when Michael Bertram hit for the cycle. Michael Bertram might be the least likely cycle candidate on the Flying Tigers since he isn't really the fleetest of foot. He started off with a single to right then he pulled a hanging curve ball into orbit which almost cleared the scoreboard in right field. Then it was time for the most difficult part of the cycle.
He pulled a fastball into the right center gap and the ball took a hop that caught the bottom lip of the padding. The extra second was enough for Bertram to slide safely into third. In his next at-bat he hit a tailing liner to deep center. The center fielded lunged to make the play where the ball ricocheted off his glove. All eyes were now fixed on the official scorer who correctly called it a double.
Bertram has flirted with cycles earlier in the season though this was the first time he was able to put it all together. The cycle has been the exclamation point to a great month for Bertram. He is hitting .304 with an OPS of .876 in July. The cycle was an amazing event however the night had a remorseful conclusion.
To call it a bad inning would be an understatement. Truth be told it was the worst inning of the season for the Flying Tigers. Andy Barkett brought in Chad Linder with a comfortable eight run lead. Linder just didn't bring his best stuff into the outing. The only out he recorded was a great catch by Jeremy Laster at the wall. The next batter hit a homerun over Laster's head in right field.
Scott Green came in to relieve Linder after he gave up his third extra base hit of the inning. However Green wasn't able to put out the fire. Like Linder, Green didn't have his best fastball. Green usually sits in the low to mid 90's with his fastball was working in the high 80's with his fastest pitch at 91mph. He allowed three straight hits that ended up surrendering the lead and cost the Flying Tigers the game.
The pitching was far from perfect, though Linder and Green were hardly the only ones at fault for the collapse. While Bertram had a perfect night at the plate his error started the rally after the homerun. On a routine grounder his throw sailed into the screen behind first.
After two hits and the rally in full force, then Ciriaco made a great stop up the middle, but his low throw put them in a precarious position. Devin Thomas wasn't able to make the pick which lead to the second throwing error of the inning. Six straight batters reached base in between six hits and two walks.
Jared Gayhart came in to retire the next four batters but the damage was done. In a blink of an eye the Flying Tigers squandered an eight run lead and dropped a costly game in the standings. It will be interesting to see if there is some shakeups with the roles in the bullpen with Gayhart pitching well.
While the team has been struggling this week the players have had the treat of being in the lineup with Carlos Guillen. While rehabbing his shoulder Guillen has posted modest results. In his 12 at-bats Guillen has had three hits with one double. The good news is his eye hasn't changed. Guillen has drawn four walks while striking out three times. Area scouts commented that Guillen is carrying a little extra weight and will need more at-bats before he is able to return to Detroit.
The hottest hitter in the lineup is behind the plate. No player has been as productive as Jordan Newton in their past ten games. He's batting a scorching hot .355 with a .429/.484/.913 split. Newton has also been a daredevil on the base paths.
Newton has never been shy about taking the extra base. It sometimes works out, like when he stole his seventh base of the season. He can get in trouble, like when he was caught trying to stretch a single for a double against the Stone Crabs. Newton's presence balances out the lineup, though he could balance any lineup with an OPS over .900 while behind the plate.
The newly added Ryan Ketchner might be the most surprising member of the Flying Tigers. He was a lefty prospect out of Seattle in 2004 though he hasn't been the same after having Tommy John surgery. If he can redirect his career he would be the feel good story of the year.
Ketchner was born deaf in both ears and only posses about ten percent of his hearing. He wears two hearing aides so he can pick up the vibrations from the ball. He didn't have a strong first outing for the Flying Tigers, going two thirds of an inning while allowing four earned runs. Ketchner was a double A all-star in the Southern League and was pitching in the Pacific Coast League in 2007. The stop in Lakeland could be brief, though the pen will take all the help they can get.