West Mich MLN: Losing (Another) Ace

When a professional ball club loses an All Star pitcher that was also the team's ace, one tends to expect that the rest of the season may be a bit of a bumpy ride. When said team also has the worst record in the league prior to trading the All Star, one can expect two months of train wreck followed by an offseason of firings and roster turnover.

So when LHP Giovanni Soto was traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for major league infeilder Jhonny Peralta, it started to look as though a disappointing season for West Michigan was about to take another step in the wrong direction.

That being said, there's nothing like a five game winning streak to heal the wounds of a lost ace, and that's what the Whitecaps got this week. And while their chances of making a postseason run are still not very good—they are currently six games behind Fort Wayne in the wild card with a little over a month left in the season—it definitely doesn't hurt to keep yourself in contention.

After sweeping Soto's new team, the Lake County Captains, the 'Caps returned home to take two of three from a woeful Dayton team, and in the process moved up from the basement of the division to 14-22 on the second half, fourteen games behind Great Lakes.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the streak, however, is the way that the 'Caps have been winning these games: every way possible. After one of the longest games this season for the 'Caps in which the team was able to come behind from a six run deficit in the sixth to eventually win 16-14 over Lake County last Thursday, West Michigan followed it up with a solid pitching performance the following day in a 3-1 win.

One of the biggest problems for the Whitecaps this season has been their inability to have a certain facet of their game step up when the other is struggling, whether it be on the mound or at the plate. Such has not been the case during this win streak. For what is probably the first time this season, we are seeing the offense show up when pitching isn't all that great, and vice versa.

The new anchor on the pitching staff looks to be RHP Jared Wesson (3-1, 2.72), who's going to have some pretty big shoes to fill in place of Soto. RHP Trevor Feeney (8-10, 3.31) continues to move closer and closer to Nate Corejo's franchise record on innings pitched in a season, which he set in 1999. Feeney currently sits at 141.1 innings pitched, 33.1 innings behind Corejo's record and about 20 innings ahead of Lansing RHP Ryan Shopshire, who currently holds second place in the Midwest League.

Offensively, 3B Wade Gaynor continues to be a run scoring machine, as his 54 RBI lead the 'Caps and put him towards the upper echelon of the Midwest League. 1B Tony Plagman has also proven to be a good asset to have as of late, as he has fulfilled of power hitter that the team has desperately needed throughout the year.

The team has a very interesting opportunity ahead of them in the next four days, as they have a four game series against league leading Great Lakes. If they can somehow pull of a series win, or at least a split, the 'Caps could find themselves in the thick of it going into a four game road series against the league-worst Dayton Dragons. Needless to say, another win streak like the one we saw last week might just be what the 'Caps need to make a Cinderella story happen.

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