West Mich. MLN: The Difference a Month Makes

A month ago, it seemed as though the West Michigan Whitecaps were in a hopeless situation: the team was in last place in the division, and was losing star players on a fairly consistent basis.

One month later, the forecast has taken a completely new look, as the 'Caps sit just one game out of a playoff spot with a little less than a month to go in the season. And, in a week that involved visits from current major league stars, as well as a former Detroit Tigers star, West Michigan seems to have the big M — momentum — on its side for the first time this season, as they are riding the high of a five game winning streak going in to today's game against Dayton.

In perhaps the most of important series of the 'Caps 2010 campaign so far, the team was able to pull out a four game series split against league-leading Great Lakes, putting themselves in position to be lifted to an excellent position in the standings if they could manage to have a solid series on the road against Dayton, a team that has been nothing short of abysmal at home since the All Star break.

The team has so far gone above and beyond just being solid, however, as they have taken the first three games from the Dragons, thanks in large part to a huge game on Sunday by OF Michael Rockett, who went 4 for 7 with a grand slam and five RBI en route to the 'Caps setting the franchise record for runs scored in a single game in their 21-10 win.

With the win yesterday in Dayton, the 'Caps find themselves at 19-24 in the second half going in to the series finale later this evening. And, since the team is only a game behind the Lansing Lugnuts for the final wild card spot, a win accompanied by a Lugnuts loss could put the team in a tie for a playoff spot.

On the mound, the team continues to be lead by RHP Trevor Feeney (9-11, 3.30), whose 155 2/3 innings pitched puts him about four starts away from breaking the Whitecaps franchise record for innings pitched in a season, as well as RHP Jared Wesson (4-1, 2.45), who has been a surprisingly great starter since being signed as a free agent earlier this year. The bullpen also continues to do well in the late innings, as relief pitching may be the biggest part of why the team is so close to a playoff birth.

Offensively, 3B Wade Gaynor continues to lead the team in most major categories. However, as previously mentioned, Rockett has been on a tear this past week, driving in runs and keeping pace with Gaynor in the home run column. West Michigan's lead off hitter, CF Jamie Johnson, continues to get on base seemingly at will, and although he hasn't been making contact as well as he was at the beginning of the season, he has been able to still find a way to get on base, and is currently third in the Midwest League in on base percentage. It seems as though the 'Caps also have a solid guy behind the plate for the first time this season in the form of C Robert Brantley, who is batting .273 in thirty-three games this season with 15 RBI.

The West Michigan Whitecaps finish their series against Dayton tonight before heading to Kentucky for a three game series against Bowling Green, a team that they are currently tied with, making the Hot Rods one of their biggest opponents for the last playoff spot. The team then returns home for a series against South Bend, followed by three games in Comstock Park against the 2009 Midwest League Champion Fort Wayne Tin Caps.

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