West Mich MLN: Treacherous Final Stretch

With less than two weeks left to go in the regular season for the West Michigan Whitecaps, the team has nothing short of a treacherous road ahead of them. In their last 14 games of the season, the 'Caps have to face Great Lakes on five more occasions, Lansing six times, and a regular season-ending three game series on the road against Fort Wayne.

With that being said, the Whitecaps have been doing everything they need to do to make a postseason push. Although their winning streak ended last week against Ft. Wayne, West Michigan has managed to keep winning at least a majority of their ballgames, and as a result, currently hold a three game lead over the Lugnuts in the wildcard race.

Offensively, 2B Corey Jones has been the poster boy for consistent hitting over the last month, and it shows, as his average has skyrocketed to a team best .348. Combine this with OF Jeff Rowland and 3B Wade Gaynor also hitting in the high .200's, and you start to see a recipe for success.

The biggest thing for the Whitecaps seems to be that they have finally found their identity over the last few weeks. Early in the season, it seemed as though West Michigan was looking for the big play — be it home runs or otherwise — and the results were not great.

Although the team has shown a few flashes of power at the plate this year — mostly by the bats of Gaynor and OF Michael Rockett — as a whole, they are last in the Midwest League in home runs, with a measly 44.

So instead of forcing the issue, the team finally moved to a small ball sort of approach, by getting runners on base and then moving them into scoring position. And, as a result, the Whitecaps have won a significantly greater amount of games in the second half. The new faces of course

The pitching staff continues to be a staple for the team, especially now that the team has a solid closer in LHP Kenny Faulk (5-4, 2.32, 10 SV). Combine that with consistent solid outings from RHP Jared Wesson (7-1, 2.54), and long outings from RHP Trevor Feeney (10-12, 3.44), and you have a recipe for one of the top staffs in the Midwest League.

Feeney continues to move closer to the innings pitched, starts and, on a not-so-great note, losses records for the West Michigan Whitecaps. He sits one loss away from tying the record that most are hoping he doesn't reach. The chances that he breaks the record for starts are looking pretty good, as he sits three starts away from tying Scott Rivette's record set in 1996. Furthermore, innings pitched seems like a record that he is very capable of breaking, as he currently sits only 9.3 innings away from breaking the record, with probably three starts left in the regular season.

The next series against Lansing is probably the most important series of the season, as it could result in the 'Caps getting a nearly insurmountable lead of the Lugnuts, or having the opposition breathing down their neck. The series starts tomorrow in Comstock Park, and is followed by their final home series of the regular season, a four game tilt against Great Lakes.

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