Lakeland MLN: Fighting for Their Season

The Lakeland Flying Tigers took advantage of going against the Palm Beach Cardinals and the St. Lucie Mets who are a combined 14 games under .500. They won four of seven games and look ready to go on a run, better late then never.

When you've been in the cellar for so long it's refreshing to see the team take some steps to being competitive. Even on a bad loss. With the Flying Tigers trailing 11-3 going into the ninth they were able to battle back to tie Mets. They ended up losing the game in the bottom of the ninth, but they are fighting more than ever.

Now that Josh Workman has been in the lineup more frequently he has been contributing. In the past ten games he has had a .294 batting average to add to the offense. He has been able to fortify the lineup by either batting in the lead off spot or adding more depth in the latter third of the order. The balanced lineup is what has sparked the run production for the Flying Tigers.

With the lineup filled with players that can get on base, Chris Carlson can do what he does best. With Workman and Justin Henry having OBP of .372 and .395 respectively over the past ten games, Carlson has been able to put his slugging to work. He has been on a tear by batting .273 with a .429 OBP and .424 SLG. With the team consistently working the count it's not surprising that they have been scoring more runs.

With the lineup starting to produce runs more regularly it will come down to the front of the rotation if they are going to go on a streak. All signs are pointing to the Flying Tigers could get hot, since their starting pitching has been more than solid since the All-Star break.

One of the best skills the starting rotation has is their ability to pitch to contact and so opponents don't get a free stroll to first. Pitching Coach Joe Coleman puts emphasis on pitching off their fastball. "If you can't pitch with your fastball you can't play at the Double-A level never mind the majors," said Coleman, and the rotation has started to find their stroke. With the departure of Mauricio Robles to Seattle the Lakeland Flying Tigers will have to rely on their stalwarts in the rotation from the beginning of the season.

Andrew Hess has stepped up his game in the second half by tossing a 2.63 ERA in his 41 innings since the break. There wasn't a more unlucky pitcher on the staff at the start of the season. Hess's BABIP was .346 in the first two months of the season. Now that his BABIP has returned to a normal .308 since June first, his ERA has dropped accordingly.

Not to be out done Charlie Furbush has been even better. His 2.21 ERA since the break is the best on the team and he has been dominant. Furbush had a fine first half with a 4.64 ERA to go with his All-Star selection, but has been stellar since. He has had a WHIP of a mere 0.98 and has become the ace of the staff.

In his 36 2/3 innings post break he has had 35 strikeouts and a mere five walks. Cutting down the walks has been the key to Furbush success since he had 17 walks in the first half and just 34 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. To top it off Furbush may have had his best start as a pro this week. He pitched six innings of one hit ball while striking out 10 Palm Beach Cardinals. If they can get consistent performances out of Furbush it would hard to foresee a long losing streak, unless if he gets promoted.

The only missing piece in their rotation is their strikeout leader L.J. Gagnier. Neither of his two starts this week went well. The first start he didn't get past the fifth inning because he walked five and allowed three hits but limited the damage to just one earned run and managed to gain the win. The second start Gagnier only pitched five innings again and wasn't so lucky because in his eight hits he allowed five earned runs and lost the game.

One area scout was mildly impressed and eager to see him pitch again since he has been able to rack up the strikeouts even with his average velocity. In his 36 and a third innings since the break he has 35 strikeouts for an 8.67 K/9. However he has walked more batters and his ERA has ballooned up to 4.46. If he can curtail the amount of walks, 3.48 BB/9 in the second half, he could make the top of the rotation a force to be reckoned with.

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