Cellar dwellers no more. That can be said of the New Britain Rock Cats, who have been the Eastern League doormat all season long. After reeling off a franchise-record nine straight wins, it's the Cats who are on the prowl.
In the middle of a 16-6 month, the Rock Cats swept two straight away series, one against Binghamton, and one against Norwich. With a blend of new and old faces, the team is really living up to its motto of "These Cats Rock!" The Rock Cats are now in third place in the Eastern League's Northern Division as of Tuesday.
Only 4.5 games back of first place Trenton, New Britain has circled the August 5-7 series against the Thunder as the biggest of the season. That series will be an intense one, not only because of first place supremacy, but because it pits New Britain's fourth ranked offense against Trenton's fifth ranked pitching staff.
There have been many factors to the New Britain resurgence. They called up hot-shot prospects like Denard Span, Matt Moses, and Nick Blackburn from Fort Myers. Span is batting over .300 since his call-up, Blackburn has an impressive 1.69 ERA in his two starts, and Moses has driven in six runs in 12 games.
It may be hard for some people to adapt and perform after a promotion, but not these guys. "These guys have really taken me in", Moses told TwinCitiesDugout. "It has made the transition a lot easier for me."
Span, who has been a lightning rod in the leadoff slot, credited Moses and Blackburn for some of his success. "With those guys here, it takes a lot of pressure off of you", he said. "We've played together for years, so there are no surprises here."
No team can survive without leadership, and the Cats have leaders. Daniel Matienzo and Douglas Deeds are two of the best hitters in the entire league, and Deeds has homered in his last three games. After struggling through the first two months of the season, leftfielder Alexander Romero has come on strong, even being named Twins Minor League Player of the Week for July 11-17.
While the offense is stacked 1-9, the pitching staff is also coming around. In addition to Blackburn, Glen Perkins and Errol Simonitsch make a nice 1-2 lefty combo in the starting rotation. Jim Abbott has turned his season around since moving into the rotation, and Corky Miller has a very respectable 3.60 ERA. Add Patrick Neshek, who is number four in the league in saves to the mix, and the staff looks to be ready for this playoff push.
Some teams would have faltered after losing two big-time pitcher like Jason Miller and Francisco Liriano due to promotion, but not this team. They have gelled at the right time, and are considered by many scouts to be the most complete team in the league right now. As long as they continue to play as a team, the series against Trenton will be one to remember.