Lakeland MLN: AS Game Breaks Up Struggles

In an All-Star game-shortened week, the Flying Tigers' June struggles continued last week, failing to win a game and sliding into third place behind Tampa.

For the Flying Tigers, even the All-Star game was a struggle, as Kody Kaiser, Rawley Bishop and Gustavo Nunez went a combined 1-for-10 in the game with four strikeouts, leaving seven runners on base in the North division's 5-4 loss to the South in ten innings.

Brayan Villarreal's All-Star appearance went more smoothly, as he recorded three ground ball outs in a hitless fourth inning.

Going into the All-Star break, the Flying Tigers were making a run at the first-half division crown, slowly gaining ground on the first-place Dunedin Blue Jays in recent weeks. Pitching coach Joe Coleman and recent All-Star selection Charlie Furbush decided that, given the team's position in the standings, Furbush would forego the All-Star game to make his scheduled Thursday start against the then-third-place Yankees.

The Yankees tagged Furbush for six runs on eight hits in four innings. The 8-1 loss evened his record at 4-4.

The previous night against Tampa, the Flying Tigers got another quality start from Adam Wilk, who threw seven innings and allowed just one run on six hits with five strikeouts, lowering his ERA to .338.

The bats showed up as well that night, stroking 15 hits but leaving 16 runners on base, eight of them with two outs. The Flying Tigers were 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Wilk left a tie game after seven innings, and the game headed for extras.

After a three-run outburst by Tampa in the top of the 11th, the Flying Tigers answered with a Nunez two-run triple in the bottom of the inning, and Nunez then scored on Brent Wyatt's sacrifice fly to tie the game at four. But in the end, the Flying Tigers lost another close game, falling 5-4 in 13 innings.

The Flying Tigers have had difficulty winning close games. They are 7-14 in one-run games this season.

Furbush struggled again Tuesday night against Dayton in another one-run loss in which he allowed three runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings to a team near the bottom of the league in almost every major offensive category. While his 109 strikeouts are still far-and-away tops in the league, he's posted a 9.87 ERA over his last two starts.

At the plate, Alden Carrithers went 7-for-17 over the last four games, still leading the league in hitting at .351. Billy Nowlin belted his fifth home run of the year, and Carrithers and Kaiser remain among the top five in the league in OPS at .878 and .905 respectively.

The Flying Tigers are hitting, just not when it counts. They've tallied 32 hits in the last four games, but only 13 runs. They're just 8-for-42 with runners in scoring position during that stretch and have left 40 runners on base.

Losing four straight and 6-of-7, the Flying Tigers have slid into third place behind the Blue Jays and Yankees, now 4.5 games out of first. They're 4-8 so far in the month of June, far behind last month's pace that saw them finish the month seven games over .500.

The road does seemingly get easier, as the Flying Tigers (33-29) host Brevard County for a four-game set after completing their series in Dayton Wednesday night. The Manatees (23-38), are currently last in the division with the second-worst record in the FSL. Seven of their next 11 games are against the Manatees, including a double-header at home on Thursday evening.

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