West Mich. MLN: Pitching Key in 'Caps Success

Many people have blamed the Whitecaps' slow start on their lack of solid and consistent pitching. After the first week of the season, the team's ERA was a mediocre 3.98, one of the league's worst. It was no surprise, then, that the 'Caps started their season at 1-4.

It's also no surprise that, as pitching improved, West Michigan's record improved, as well. Despite suffering a season opening three-game sweep against the league-leading Lake County Captains, the 'Caps have since won nearly every series that they've been a part of, taking two of three from Fort Wayne and Bowling Green before losing two to the Great Lakes Loons, moving to 5-7 on the season.

"We've done a lot better job of not having as many walks," manager Joe DePastino said after a 5-3 loss to the Loons on Monday. "Our starters and relievers are looking great right now."

RHP Jacob Turner, the Tigers' first round pick in the 2009 MLB draft, said that keeping the ball in the strike zone is one of the biggest things that the 'Caps pitching staff has focused on early in the season.

"I think the biggest thing that the pitching staff has focused on lately is not walking guys," Turner said. "Make a team get three hits in a row on you instead."

The team has seen results from this mindset. In five of the team's seven games from the past week, the Whitecaps were able to hold their opponents to under four runs. They've moved their ERA to 3.36 in the process.

But, as is true in most things, with every positive, there's a negative. In this case, it's clutch hitting.

The 'Caps are currently 0-for-6 on the season with the bases loaded. Two of these miscues occurred last night against the Loons, as 2B Mike Gosse hit into two inning-ending double plays with the bases loaded.

DePastino noted this as the biggest area that the team needs to improve in.

"We need to do a better job at the plate," DePastino said. "We haven't been able to bring in runners from third base. The last three nights we've been horrible at that."

While the team is currently sixth in the league in hits (106), they are a woeful thirteen in runs (44) and RBI (36). DePastino contributes this to the team's recent lack of plate discipline.

"We just keep making bonehead mistakes," said DePastino. "We're going out there swinging at every pitch. Balls in the dirt, balls over our heads. We can't drive in runs that way.

The team is currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern division, six games behind league-leading Lake County (11-1).

The 'Caps will see Turner on the mound today for the start of a three game series on the road against the Dayton Dragons (7-5), before returning to Comstock Park to face the South Bend Silver Hawks (2-10), who currently hold last place in the Midwest League. The series starts on Friday, April 23 at 6:35 PM.

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