Lakeland MLN: Creeping Back Into the Race

With just 20 games left, the Flying Tigers are creeping back into Florida State League relevance, now 7.5 games behind division-leading Tampa and back at the .500 mark for the first time since the second half began.

Though time may be running out on Lakeland to earn a playoff spot, manager Andy Barkett likes what he sees.

"They're playing hard," said Barkett. "They're getting after it every day. They're a young group of guys scratching and fighting to win games, so it's been fun to watch."

Barkett's club is now a league-best 7-3 in their last 10 games and 11-5 in August, their best start to a month this season.

The Flying Tigers were 5-2 in seven games this week, taking 2-of-3 from Brevard County and 3-of-4 from Clearwater. The team scored 37 runs over seven games, hitting .253 as a team with runners in scoring position and belting seven home runs.

Jordan Lennerton contributed much of that offense, going 10-for-27 with a pair of doubles, nine BRI and three home runs, including a go-ahead shot in the top of the 14th inning at Clearwater Tuesday night, which proved to be the game-winner.

He's currently running an eight-game hitting streak, during which his slugging percentage has jumped to .437, bringing his OPS to .824.

Brent Wyatt was 9-for-25 with a home run, three doubles and seven RBI for the week. He's now slugging .360 with a .723 OPS on the year. Meanwhile, Francisco Martinez had an eerily similar week, going 10-for-28 with a home run, three doubles and four RBI, and he's now slugging .373 with a .718 OPS on the year.

However, it was not all good news offensively.

The recently hot Bryan Holaday has cooled off, currently mired in a 2-for-33 slump that has seen his average drop to .254 and his OPS to .741. Patrick McKenna is also struggling, going 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts for the week.

While there were a few struggles in an otherwise solid offensive week, the pitching had its good and bad moments as well.

Coming off a week in which he earned FSL Pitcher of the Week honors, Adam Wilk had a rough outing at Brevard County, allowing three runs (two earned) on just four hits in 3.1 innings. He also uncharacteristically walked three batters. In 23 stars this season, he's walked only 19.

The following night, as the Flying Tigers traveled to Clearwater, Jon Kibler capped off an FSL Pitcher of the Week push of his own, tossing seven shutout innings and giving up seven hits while striking out three. This start, coupled with his previous start in which he threw another seven scoreless innings against Clearwater where he allowed five hits and struck out five, earned him Player of the Week honors for the period of August 9-15, the second consecutive Flying Tiger to do so.

The Flying Tigers (25-25) play 14 of their last 20 games against teams above them in the division, including a five-game set against Tampa (32-17), which features a double-header at Tampa Sunday and another Monday in Lakeland.

The Flying Tigers could be in position to give the Yankees a scare over the weekend, but to make that series relevant, they have to handle the next three against Brevard County (30-22) starting Wednesday night.

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