The race between West Michigan and Lansing for the final playoff spot in the division was a tight one at the beginning of last week, but, after taking two of three from Lansing at home, as well as taking their first three against Great Lakes—a team that the 'Caps could potentially be facing for the Eastern Division crown—West Michigan has a five game lead over the Lugnuts with seven games left in the season, and is currently riding a five game winning streak going into their regular season home finale tonight.
Another scenario is starting to look like more and more of a possibility for the Whitecaps, though: with Ft. Wayne sitting only four games above them for the second half division crown, and with three games left against Ft. Wayne in the regular season, West Michigan has a realistic chance of taking of the top spot in the division, setting themselves up with a date against Great Lakes in the first round of the playoffs.
Not too long ago, being a part of a playoff series against the Loons would have been a bad thing for the 'Caps, or any other team, for that matter. But, recently, the 'Caps have been playing as well, or even better, than the Loons in head-to-head match-ups.
RHP Trevor Feeney (11-13, 3.41) etched his name into the history books for the club last night, as his 179.2 IP this season makes him the Whitecaps record holder for most innings pitched in a season, breaking Nate Cornejo's record of 174.6 IP set in 1999.
To add to Feeney's excitement, his start yesterday may put him into position to start the 'Caps first playoff game—assuming they make it to that point—against either Great Lakes or Lake County, something that Whitecaps' fans probably aren't too upset about.
LHP Kenny Faulk (5-4, 2.28, 11SV) continues to be on fire in the bullpen, as he hasn't allowed a run in his last ten games. Over that stretch, opponents are batting a mediocre .238 against him, making him one of the best pitchers coming out of the pen for any playoff team going in to the postseason.
To add to Faulk's success, enter RHP Zach Samuels (3-0, 2.53, 3SV), who, since beginning his time as a Whitecap, has been nothing but consistent out of the bullpen, making him the Robin to Faulk's proverbial Batman.
Offensively, 2B Corey Jones continues to prove that he is one the most consistent hitters on the team going in to the postseason. His .350 average puts him towards the top of the Midwest League in the category, and his ability to get on base again and again has been a large part of why the 'Caps have been so successful in the second half.
But, there is little to no doubt who the team's MVP has been this season. 3B Wade Gaynor, although he has seen his average has dropped a little recently, continues to be the team's key to winning a Midwest League Championship this season. Watch for the team's success in the playoffs to be significantly impacted by how well he does at the plate.
The 'Caps see their final home game of the regular season tonight, before traveling to Lansing for what has to be the most crucial three game series of the season so far against the Lugnuts. After that, the team concludes its regular season against last year's Midwest League Champion, the Ft. Wayne Tincaps. Although not expected to be the case last week, the series could also decide who plays who in the first round of the playoffs; furthermore, it could very well be a preview of the Eastern Division Championship series.