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  1. #161
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    Whitecaps continue Midwest League playoff push with 20 games remaining | MLive.com

    Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 12:00 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- West Michigan Whitecaps manager Ernie Young has a simple solution for his team to continue the franchiseís string of consecutive postseason appearances.

    "We need to win -- itís all about winning right now," said Young said, whose team has 20 games remaining in the regular season. "You can develop as much as you want, but in order to make the playoffs, you have to win."

    West Michigan has qualified for the Midwest League playoffs seven consecutive years, and has won four league championships in that span.

    The Whitecaps (26-24, 58-61) enter tonightís three-game series at Fort Wayne two games behind the TinCaps (28-22) and Great Lakes Loons (28-22) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division. They have lost four of their past six games.

    The top two teams from the second half of the season who did not qualify for the playoffs in the first half earn automatic bids.

    Bowling Green and Lansing secured first-half berths, and Dayton (33-17) is the frontrunner to win the division title in the second half. The first-place Dragons are five games ahead of Great Lakes and Fort Wayne.

    "We are at the point now where every game counts," Whitecaps CEO Lew Chamberlin said. "And yes, this is player development, and everyone around here knows that, but we also know that we want to win.

    "All these kids want to win, I know Ernie wants to win, the Tigers want to win and yours truly wants to win. Everybody is going to be leaving it on the field in any way they can, and thatís when baseball is the most exciting.

    "There is something about playoff baseball that brings out the best in teams, and this is going to be fun."

    Young spent the majority of his 18-year professional career in the minors, and has been in the thick of several playoff races. In his experiences, Young said extending the season is based on three major factors.

    "Iíve been on winning teams in the minor leagues, and made the playoffs five or six times in my career," Young said. "And it comes down to defense, pitching and timely hitting, in that order. Thatís what will get us to the playoffs."

    Whitecaps starting pitcher Brian Flynn said the players know what is at stake.

    "In the last couple weeks, we have kind of been in that playoff atmosphere, and itís going to be like that from here on out," he said. "Every series matters, and weíre going to play as hard as we can to finish strong."

    Young said the added pressure of not qualifying for the playoffs in the first half has not affected his teamís focus.

    "We knew we would have our work cut out for us in the second half, and now it is up for grabs," he said. "The only team that is running away with solidifying their spot right now is Dayton. Everyone else is kind of bunched together."

    The Whitecaps play 10 of their final 20 games against Fort Wayne and Dayton.
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  2. #162
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    Steven Moya, Nick Castellanos push Whitecaps past Fort Wayne on the road | MLive.com

    Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 11:05 PM Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 11:12 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The signs of a hitting slump ending were everywhere for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

    The Whitecaps knocked off Fort Wayne 8-4 on Wednesday with contributions throughout the lineup.

    The Whitecaps got another RBI from the Midwest Leagueís hottest hitting third baseman, a monstrous home run, a three-run sixth inning that included a key two-run double and at least one hit from every player in the lineup.

    The win upped West Michigan's record to 27-24 in the second half.

    The eight runs, which came after a tough 1-0 loss against Great Lakes on Monday that included just two hits, was just the second time since Aug. 3 that the Whitecaps scored that many runs in a game.

    Steven Moya hit a home run that landed in a pavilion beyond the right field wall at Parkview Field. The homer was Moyaís 12th of the year. Moya has three home runs in his past 39 at-bats, but entered Wednesday hitting just .194 in his past 10 games.

    Nick Castellanos, the hot-hitting third baseman, had the RBI single which upped his team-leading runs batted in to 67, 10 more than teammate James Robbins.

    Curtis Casaliís two-run double in the sixth inning upped the Whitecaps lead to 6-2.

    The Whitecaps finished with 11 hits, including three by Moya.

    Brian Flynn upped his record to 5-2 with his fourth win in five decisions since July 11. With six innings Wednesday, Flynn has now pitched six innings in four consecutive starts. He gave up two runs while striking out four.
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    Whitecaps' bullpen roughed up in lopsided road loss to Fort Wayne | MLive.com

    Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 10:45 PM Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 10:47 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The West Michigan Whitecapsí drive toward a second-half playoff berth hit a pothole Thursday night.

    The Whitecaps gave up nine unanswered runs after the fourth inning and suffered an 11-2 loss against the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Parkview Field.

    It was the most runs given up by the Whitecaps since a 10-1 defeat at Dayton on Aug. 4.

    West Michigan dropped to 27-25 in the second half, and fell two games back of Fort Wayne for the final wild-card spot in the Midwest Leagueís Eastern Division.

    Starter Brian Stroud took the loss in his Midwest League debut after joining the Whitecaps on Wednesday.

    Stroud, selected in the 31st round of Juneís draft, allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.

    He surrendered a home run to Fort Wayneís Tony Spangenberg to lead off the fifth that broke a 2-2 tie.

    West Michiganís bullpen failed to keep it close as the TinCaps scored four runs on only two hits in the sixth and tacked on three more runs in the seventh.

    Reliever Kevan Hess retired only three of the nine batters he faced. He gave up five runs and three walks in one inning pitched.

    West Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Steven Moya singled home Luis Castillo, but the TinCaps scored twice in the bottom of the inning.

    Nick Castellanos tied the game in the third with a RBI double.

    Castillo went 3-for-5 for the Whitecaps, while Castellanos and Dixon Machado each had two hits.

    The Whitecaps wrap up a six-game road trip tonight before beginning a seven-game homestand Friday at Fifth Third Ballpark.
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    Kevin Eichhorn roughed up as Whitecaps slide further behind in MWL playoff chase | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 12:15 AM Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 12:46 AM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- A promising beginning turned into a dismal ending for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

    The Whitecaps slid further behind in the race for a second-half playoff spot after being hammered 10-2 by the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Friday night at Parkview Field.

    West Michigan was outscored 21-4 in back-to-back losses against the TinCaps to end the three-game series and conclude a six-game road trip with a 2-4 record.

    The Whitecaps (27-26, 59-63) are now three games back of Fort Wayne for the final wild-card spot in the Midwest League Eastern Division.

    Jeff Rowland blasted a home run in the first inning to give the Whitecaps an early 1-0 lead, but it was all downhill after that.

    Fort Wayne answered with five first-inning runs off starter Kevin Eichhorn, who had his worst outing of the season, and tacked on two runs each in the third and fourth innings.

    Eichhorn (9-5) lasted 3 1/3 innings, and gave up eight earned runs and 11 hits. It was his second consecutive loss after winning seven in a row.

    Newcomer Tyler Clark, who was added to the active roster Friday from the Gulf Coast League, allowed one run on three hits in 1 1/3 innings.

    Luis Sanz scored West Michiganís other run on a sacrifice fly by Dixon Machado in the fifth.

    The Whitecaps managed only four hits, while Fort Wayne banged out 16.

    Nick Castellanos and Sanz singled, and Josh Ashenbrenner added a double for West Michigan, which begins a seven-game homestand tonight.
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    Detroit Tigers top draft pick James McCann joins Whitecaps as homestand begins | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 2:05 PM Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 2:07 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- The West Michigan Whitecaps are getting some help in their push toward a second-half playoff berth.

    Catcher James McCann, the Detroit Tigers' top pick in this year's draft, is joining the team today for the beginning of a seven-game homestand at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    The 21-year-old out of the University of Arkansas was selected by the Tigers in the second round and was the 76th overall pick.

    He signed a professional contract Aug. 9 and played five games in the Gulf Coast League, where he batted .357 (5-for-14) with a home run and six RBIs.

    A standout defensive player, McCann was the first catcher taken in the 2011 draft after he hit .306 with six home runs, 38 RBIs and 14 doubles as a junior this past spring.

    He hit .284 in his three-year career at Arkansas, driving in 83 runs and hitting 16 home runs.

    Luis Sanz was transferred to the Connecticut Tigers of the New York-Penn league to make room for McCann on the active roster.

    Sanz batted .294 in 41 games with the Whitecaps, including a .344 average with 12 RBIs in the second half.

    With McCann's arrival, West Michigan has Detroit's last two top selections.

    Third baseman Nick Castellanos was a first-round pick in the 2010 draft and currently leads the Midwest League with 137 hits.
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    Whitecaps' losing skid hits three games as Midwest League playoff chances take hit | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 11:35 PM Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 11:37 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- West Michigan Whitecaps manager Ernie Young isnít worried about the teams ahead of his team in the race toward a playoff berth.

    Young is more concerned about getting his own team to play well down the stretch -- something that hasnít happened lately.

    The Whitecaps scored two early runs Saturday night before their bats fell silent in a 5-3 loss against the streaking South Bend Silver Hawks in front of 9,537 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    West Michigan has lost three in a row -- despite scoring first in each contest -- and eight of its last 12.

    It fell four games back of Fort Wayne in the race for the final second-half playoff spot in the Eastern Division with 16 games remaining.

    "Iím not thinking about Fort Wayne, and Iím not thinking about Great Lakes, we have to win the game tomorrow," Young said. "We are not playing very well right now all around. Weíre not pitching, weíre not hitting and thatís the bottom line.

    "If we donít pitch it, and we donít hit it, we wonít have to worry about the playoffs because weíll be home on Sept. 6."

    The Whitecaps seemed poised to begin a seven-game homestand on a high note while facing South Bend starter J.R. Bradley, who has lost a Midwest League-high 14 games.

    They scored a pair of runs off him in the first inning on four singles, but mustered only one hit in the next four innings and left the based loaded in the first and third.

    Jason Krizan ripped a shot off second baseman Gerson Montillaís glove to drive in two runs to put West Michigan up 2-0.

    "I was definitely happy with the way we played in the first inning, but we had an opportunity to knock their pitcher out of the game," Young said. "But just like the whole season, when we get a team, or a pitcher down, we have to throw that knockout punch. And when you donít, it gives the other team a little momentum."

    South Bend bounced back with three runs in the second inning on two singles and a double off Whitecaps starter Alex Burgos.

    Burgos ran into trouble again in the third. He issued two walks, and both scored, as back-to-back two-out singles put West Michigan in a 5-2 hole.

    Jeff Rowland trimmed the deficit in the fourth with his second home run in as many days. A two-out solo blast to right field made it 5-3.

    Burgos (6-4) wasnít sharp for the first time this season against South Bend. He was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in two previous starts against the Silver Hawks, but struggled with his command on Saturday night and took the loss.

    He threw 84 pitches through the first four innings and allowed five runs on six hits while walking two.

    Relievers Ryan Woolley and Daniel Bennett kept the game close by combining for five shutout innings.

    Bennett has retired 28 consecutive batters since allowing a hit in his Midwest League debut on Aug. 4.

    Nick Castellanos went 1-for-2 with a seventh-inning single. He leads the Midwest League with 138 hits and is 20 hits shy of the franchise record.

    Former Whitecap Robert Fick tallied 158 hits in 1997.
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    Whitecaps scratch out victory vs. Silver Hawks | MLive.com

    Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 8:30 PM Updated: Monday, August 22, 2011, 12:26 PM
    By Michael Zuidema | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- Leaving 12 runners on base and going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position usually isn't a formula for success.

    But it worked for the West Michigan Whitecaps on Sunday afternoon.

    The Whitecaps scratched out a pair of runs, which was enough for its pitching staff in a 2-0 win against the South Bend Silver Hawks before a crowd of 7,644 at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    West Michigan manager Ernie Young was pleased with his team's effort, even though he said 1-for-13 is the kind of statistic that can come back and "bite us in the backside."

    He especially was glad to snap the Whitecaps' three-game losing streak, in which they were outscored 26-7.

    "I wasn't very happy," Young said. "When you're in a race for a playoff spot, you expect your ballclub to play with some energy, some enthusiasm, go out there and give everything that they have.

    "It was a little frustrating for us (after Saturday's 5-3 loss to South Bend). I'm sure it was for the players as well, but they have to suck it up and play."

    With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Whitecaps (60-64, 28-27 second half) trail Fort Wayne by three games for the wild card spot.

    "The losing streak was more rough now because we're winding down," said Nick Castellanos, who went 3-for-4 to give him a Midwest League-leading 141 hits this season and move him to within 17 of the franchise record set by Robert Fick in 1997.

    "It definitely felt good to get back on the right side of things with a win."

    The Whitecaps had the bases loaded with no outs and two outs in the second, but came away with only one run when Dixon Machado's groundout to short scored Clay Jones.

    West Michigan made it 2-0 in the third when Castellanos scored from second on a fielding error by South Bend shortstop Niko Gallego.

    The Whitecaps loaded the bases again with two out in the fifth and put runners on first and third with no outs in the seventh, but couldn't get a run across in either case.

    "A win is a win, whether it's an ugly win or a pretty win. This late in the game, we'll take it," Castellanos said. "Especially because we're in the race for the playoffs. Any way we can get a W, ugly or pretty, it's a good feeling."

    A trio of Whitecaps pitchers combined for just the sixth shutout of the season and the first since June 26.

    West Michigan starter Kyle Ryan (5-9) gave up three hits, walked one and struck out eight on 81 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. Aided by two pickoffs and a slick double play turned by Hernan Perez and Machado, Ryan faced only two batters more than the minimum.

    He was relieved by Kevan Hess, who allowed only one hit in 2 1/3 innings, and Michael Torrealba pitched a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

    Only one South Bend Batter even reached second.

    "That was the key to the ballgame, good pitching," Young said. "Aside from an error at first base, it was good defense, and we were able to to hold on to that 2-0 lead for the whole game."

    "They did a great job of throwing strikes and staying ahead of batters, and James called a great game," Castellanos said, referring to catcher James McCann, the 76th overall pick in the 2011 draft who went 1-for-4 in his West Michigan debut.

    E-mail Michael Zuidema: mzuidema@grpress.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelzuidema
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    Inside the Whitecaps: West Michigan not picking up ground in MWL playoff chase | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, August 22, 2011, 10:00 AM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    Who's hot: Relief pitcher Daniel Bennett has been dominant out of the bullpen since joining the Whitecaps on Aug. 4. A 19th-round selection in this year's draft out of Florida State, Bennett has retired 28 consecutive batters over a span of seven appearances and 9 1/3 innings. He has struck out eight and walked none.

    Who's not: Designated hitter Clay Jones is hitting only .105 (2-for-19) in his last six games and has struck out six times. He is batting .270 in 36 games since returning from a hand injury.

    Upcoming games: The Whitecaps (28-27, 60-64) continue a seven-game homestand this week. They have two games remaining in a four-game series against South Bend and host defending Midwest League champion Lake County for three games Wednesday-Friday. West Michigan travels to first-place Dayton for a four-game set beginning Saturday.

    Looking forward: Fifteen games remain in the regular season, including five home games in a row against the bottom two teams in the Eastern Division.

    Analysis: Aside from Sunday's 2-0 win against South Bend, it was a rough week for the Whitecaps as they failed to gain any ground in pursuit of a second-half playoff berth. West Michigan currently is 3 games behind Fort Wayne for the final wild-card spot heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. The Whitecaps are 4-6 in their last 10 games and need to get hot if they intend to make the playoffs.
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    Steven Moya's two-run homer pushes Whitecaps past Silver Hawks' Mike Bolsinger | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, August 22, 2011, 11:25 PM Updated: Monday, August 22, 2011, 11:36 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- With one awkward swing of the bat, West Michigan Whitecaps right fielder Steven Moya ended South Bend starter Mike Bolsingerís recent mastery.

    Moyaís two-run home run, coupled with another stellar pitching effort, carried the Whitecaps to a 2-1 victory against the Silver Hawks Monday night in front of nearly 5,000 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    Bolsinger did not allow a run against the Whitecaps in 17 1/3 innings until Moya muscled a two-strike pitch over the right-field deck in the fourth inning.

    "I had two strikes on me, and I was just trying to see the ball and hit it," said Moya, whose homer was his 13th of the season. "I was trying to do something so I wouldnít get another strikeout, and I just threw my hands at the ball. I was surprised that it went out."

    Bolsinger carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his last start against the Whitecaps on July 31 in South Bend.

    Moyaís blast was one of only four West Michigan hits on the night.

    "Heís a good pitcher," Whitecaps manager Ernie Young said of Bolsinger. "He throws strikes and he keeps us off balance, but Steven stayed on a change-up that was down in the zone. When you put the ball in play, then good things will happen."

    South Bend threatened in the ninth after a one-out walk, but closer Jade Todd struck out pinch hitter Ramon Castillo on a full-count pitch and catcher James McCann gunned down Roberto Ortiz at second base to secure the win.

    "The traditional double play to end the game," McCann joked. "Todd made a great pitch and got the guy to swing through it, and the runner didnít go on his first move and gave me a chance to throw him out. Iím glad we got the win."

    The victory was the Whitecapsí second in a row against South Bend as they continue to chase Fort Wayne for the second half wild-card spot in the Eastern Division.

    West Michigan (29-27, 61-64) trails Fort Wayne by three games with 14 games remaining.

    Whitecaps pitching has allowed only one run in the past two games. Starter Brian Flynn gave up one run on four hits and struck out six in 5 1/3 innings.

    Newcomer Tyler Clark and Todd survived late-inning jams and combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

    "The pitching has been great the past three games," Young said. "They competed, they threw strikes and they made pitches when they had to."

    Said Flynn: "I ran my pitch count a little higher than I would have liked, but the bullpen came up big. Clark shut them down, and Todd got the big lefty."

    Todd averted trouble in the eighth when he struck out Midwest League home run leader Arbelo Yazy with runners on the corner and one out.

    He then got Matt Helm to line out to left field.

    "Our pitchers did a heck of a job," McCann said. "They did a tremendous job holding them down and they got out of big situations with runners in scoring position."
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    Whitecaps' Nick Castellanos continues hot hitting, drives in winning run vs. South Bend | MLive.com

    Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 12:35 AM Updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011, 8:46 AM
    By Michael Zuidema | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- Back in the first week of June, West Michigan Whitecaps third baseman Nick Castellanos took a ground ball off his hand that tore off part of the nail on the little finger of his right hand.

    While serving as the designated hitter over the next week, the Detroit Tigersí 2010 first-round pick decided not to wear batting gloves because putting them on irritated the nail.

    He hasnít worn them since, and with good reason -- the change works.

    Castellanosí two-out, two-run single in the seventh inning lifted the Whitecaps to a 3-2 win against the South Bend Silver Hawks on Tuesday night before a crowd of 6,769 at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    "It made me focus a little more on not taking big swings because if you donít hit the ball on the good part of the bat itís going to hurt a little more," he said. "It calmed me down in the box a little bit, and it made me swing at better pitches."

    After starting the season with a .179 average and 20 strikeouts in April, Castellanos is batting .334 with 64 RBIs since May 1.

    He also leads the Midwest League with 143 hits after going 2-for-4, and now is within 15 hits of tying the franchise record set by Robert Fick in 1997.

    "Ever since I put him in the four hole, heís taken off," West Michigan manager Ernie Young said. "You take away the first month, heís been the most consistent hitter throughout the season. I think he likes that challenge of being in that part of the batting order."

    Castellanos drove in Curt Casali and Dixon Machado for the winning runs with a liner into left field. The hit helped him raise his average with runners in scoring position this season to .400.

    "It took a little while to adjust and get used to playing pro ball," Castellanos said. "Once I found myself as a pro baseball player and tried to be myself, rather than try to be the ideal first-round guy, Iíve felt a lot more comfortable."

    It was the third win in a row for the Whitecaps (62-64, 30-27), who trail Fort Wayne by three games in the race for the wild card spot with 13 games remaining in the regular season.

    "I like how weíre playing," Young said. "Iím not going to do any scoreboard watching or anything for at least another couple days, but weíve just got to keep stringing these wins together."

    Trailing 1-0, the Whitecaps tied it in the sixth when Steven Moya scored from third on Jason Krizanís ground-out double play.

    Ryan Woolley (1-0) got his first professional win after he struck out four and didnít allow a hit in 2 1/3 innings for relief for starter Brian Stroud, who gave up one run on four hits, two walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

    "It was good to finally get a win," Woolley said. "The three games we just took were huge for us. Itís going to big for us to keep up this hot streak."

    Whitecaps closer Michael Torrealba gave up a solo home run to deep right to Midwest League home run leader Yazy Arbelo to lead off the ninth, but retired the next three batters to lock down his seventh save ó and beat a downpour by mere moments.

    "Today we got the big hit when we needed it. Thatís going to have to be a key," Young said. "Weíre going to have to get the key hit when we have men in scoring position.

    "Youíve got to score runs to win ballgames. Pitchers can keep us in the game, but weíve got to score runs to win."

    E-mail Michael Zuidema: mzuidema@grpress.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelzuidema
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    Whitecaps' James McCann drives in winning run in 13th inning vs. Lake County | MLive.com

    Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 12:30 AM Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 10:44 AM
    By Michael Zuidema | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTORK PARK -- West Michigan Whitecaps catcher James McCann had two chances to end Wednesday nightís game with a walk-off hit, but couldnít come through.

    The third time was the charm, however, for him in the bottom of the 13th inning.

    McCann, the Detroit Tigersí top pick in the 2011 draft, drove in Steven Moya with a sacrifice fly to give the Whitecaps their fourth victory in a row with a 2-1 win against the Lake County Captains before a crowd of 6,830 at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    At 4 hours, 14 minutes, it was the Whitecapsí longest game since a 15-inning loss to Kane County that took 4:44 on July 20.

    "That was a long game. We missed some opportunities earlier in the game," McCann said. "I did myself, twice, with a couple chances before that. I had the third chance and thankfully it worked out.

    "That last at-bat I was just trying to hit something to the outfield, stay out of the double play and get something deep enough to get that run home."

    The Whitecaps had moved the winning run into scoring position with one out in four consecutive innings, from the ninth to the 12th, but couldnít come up with the key hit. McCann grounded out to first to strand Moya at second in the ninth, then grounded out to third with Moya at third to end the 11th.

    But McCann, appearing in only his third game with the Whitecaps, came through in the 13th.

    Moya struck out swinging in the 13th, but reached on a wild pitch. James Robbins moved him to second with a single, and Moya advanced to third on another wild pitch.

    That set up McCann, who hit a fly ball deep enough to left to score Moya.

    Lake County appealed, saying Moya left third too early, but umpire A.J. Rogers ruled him safe to end the game.

    "Putting the ball in play, something good is always going to happen, especially when you get two strikes," West Michigan manager Ernie Young said. "We were fortunate enough to get one deep enough in the outfield to score Moya from third base."

    The win moved the Whitecaps (63-64, 31-27) to within two games of Fort Wayne in the race for the wild card spot. West Michigan closes the regular season with a three-game series against Fort Wayne at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    "Iím just trying to keep our team prepared to win," Young said. "If it comes down to the last three games of the second half, thatís what itís all about. Giving yourself a chance."

    Lake County broke a scoreless tie in the ninth when LeVon Washington scored on Nick Bartoloneís two-out infield single.

    But the Whitecaps tied it in the bottom of the ninth when Hernan Perez scored from second on Moyaís single to left.

    Through the first eight innings, West Michigan mustered only three hits, two by Josh Ashenbrenner.

    Lake County, however, didnít fare much better against Whitecaps pitching.

    Lake County loaded the bases with one out in the seventh on a single and a pair of walks, but Whitecaps reliever Kevan Hess struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.

    Daniel Bennett and Tyler Clark each pitched two scoreless innings in relief, and Jade Todd (2-1) got the win after pitching a perfect 13th.

    West Michigan starter Kevin Eichhorn didnít allow a run in 6 1/3 innings, scattering four hits and four walks, and striking out four.

    "They did a heck of a job hitting their spots with all their pitches," McCann said. "Theyíre tired, itís the end of the season, weíre all tired, and they did a great job stepping up tonight and keeping us in the ball game."

    E-mail Michael Zuidema: mzuidema@grpress.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelzuidema
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    Whitecaps outlast Captains in extra innings again | MLive.com

    Published: Friday, August 26, 2011, 12:40 AM Updated: Friday, August 26, 2011, 12:43 AM
    By Brian VanOchten | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- Same script, one inning less.

    A night after the West Michigan Whitecaps needed 13 innings to defeat the Lake County Captains, it took 12 more Thursday to accomplish a similar result in front of a crowd of 9,289 at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    The Whitecaps pulled out a 1-0 victory on Jason Krizanís two-out single in the bottom of the 12th inning. West Michigan remains in the hunt for a Midwest League Eastern Division wild-card playoff spot with 11 games left in the season.

    Krizan ripped a one-hop grounder off the leg of Lake County relief pitcher Kyle Petter. His smash brought home Ryan Hamme, who led off the bottom of the 12th inning with a double into the gap in left-center field.

    It ended a marathon contest that lasted 3 hours, 21 minutes.

    The Whitecaps held off the Captains, 2-1, in an even longer game Wednesday night that dragged on for more than four hours.

    "I donít think we could possibly play anymore," Whitecaps manager Ernie Young said of the back-to-back endurance tests. "Runs were scarce tonight. Runs were scarce last night. Neither team had a lot of opportunities to score, but thatís baseball.
    "Iím glad it ended the way it ended."

    It turned out to be just enough for the Whitecaps (64-64) to reach the .500 mark for the first time since April 23. It also marked their fourth consecutive win and improved their record to 5-1 on the current homestand.

    As a reward for his clutch performance, Krizan got a shaving-cream pie to the side of his face from his teammates in the clubhouse. He didnít mind since it upped West Michiganís second-half record to 32-27.

    "I was just fortunate it didnít bounce to the infielder," Krizan said of his hard grounder that deflected off Petter into foul territory and landed a safe distance from Lake County first baseman Chase Burnette.

    "Itíd be nice to win one in regulation, but itís nice to win in extra innings, too."

    Hamme, the designated hitter, helped make sure he didnít end up on the mound as the next pitcher for the Whitecaps. He began throwing in the bullpen in the top of the 12th and wouldíve been called upon in relief if the contest had reached the 13th inning for the second consecutive night, Young said.

    "Yeah, I was next up," Hamme said of his potential relief appearance. "Luckily, it all came together and we didnít have to see that."

    The Whitecaps and Captains combined to strike out 28 times in the contest.

    The West Michigan lineup established a season high with 15 whiffs at the plate, including catcher James McCann, who went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts one night after knocking in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.

    Daniel Bennett (2-0) picked up the win in relief.

    The Captains dropped to 49-79 overall and 21-38 in the second half.

    The Whitecaps, who can complete a three-game sweep of the Captains in tonightís series finale, improve to 6-7 in extra-inning games.
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    Nick Castellanos continues to spark Whitecaps' playoff push, sparks win over Captains | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 12:45 AM Updated: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 12:52 AM
    By Brian VanOchten | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- Nick Castellanos is approaching both personal and team accomplishments in the final 10 games of the Midwest League season that once seemed improbable, if not impossible.

    The 19-year-old third baseman and top draft selection of the Detroit Tigers last summer struggled with a .179 batting average and struck out 20 times for the Whitecaps in the month of April. He performed nothing like the No. 44 overall pick who received a record $3.45 million signing bonus for a player chosen outside the first round.

    Four months later, the possibilities are endless.

    Castellanos finished 2-for-4 at the plate Friday night to lead the Whitecaps to a 4-2 victory against the Lake County Captains in front of 10,278 and the second-largest crowd of the season at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    He ripped a ground-rule RBI double in the third inning and singled in the fifth to propel the Whitecaps (65-64, 33-27) to their sixth consecutive win and complete a three-game series sweep against the Captains.

    It also pulled West Michigan, which stumbled to a 32-37 record in the first half, within one game of Fort Wayne in the chase for the final Eastern Division wild-card playoff berth in the second half.

    "Heís putting together a very nice year," Whitecaps manager Ernie Young said of Castellanos. "He has matured a little bit, but he still has a long ways to go. I donít think he ever lost confidence in his ability to play (during a rough first month). He just put a little too much pressure on himself being the first pick of the Tigers a year ago.

    "Baseball is a learning process."

    Castellanos, who has hit .333 (133-for-399) with 65 RBIs since May 1, continues to lead the teamís second-half resurrection.

    Two more hits bring his MWL-leading total to 145, which is only 13 shy of equaling Robert Fickís single-season franchise record set in 1997. Not that heís keeping track of anything but the teamís win total.

    "It means a ton," Castellanos said of clinching a postseason berth. "Weíre fighting for that last spot. Everybody is in a good mood because weíre winning. Weíre playing well right now.

    "I didnít even know about (approaching Fickís record) until two days ago when someone else mentioned it to me. As long as weíre playing well, thatís all that matters to me."

    The hits keep coming for Castellanos. Yet, he also flashed some leather in helping the Whitecaps finish 6-1 on a seven-game homestand. He made a slick fielding play on a smash into the hole to record the final out of Fridayís contest.

    "Itíll get there, too," he said of his defense. "It just might take a little longer, but Iím not worried about it."

    Castellanos, the No. 2-rated prospect in the Tigers organization, is focused on helping the Whitecaps finish strong. The team departs on a seven-game road trip, beginning tonight in Dayton, Ohio, before returning home for a huge series Sept. 3-5 against Fort Wayne to end the regular season.

    "Iím more confident and Iím more sure of myself now," Castellanos said. "The first month was just a transition period where I was getting used to everything."

    Josue Carreno (6-10) allowed one run on six hits through five innings to earn the win against the Captains. Ryan Woolley permitted just a solo home run to Lake Countyís Carlos Moncrief in the top of the ninth to pick up his second save.

    Hernan Perez and Clay Jones contributed two hits apiece for the Whitecaps.
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    Whitecaps waste strong pitching performance from Kyle Ryan in loss to Dayton | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 10:45 PM Updated: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 10:49 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    DAYTON, Ohio -- Another quality pitching performance wasnít enough for the West Michigan Whitecaps to extend a six-game winning streak.

    The Whitecaps opened the regular seasonís final road trip with Saturdayís 2-0 loss to the Dayton Dragons.

    The loss ended the Whitecaps' winning streak and continued a trend of getting excellent pitching while being plagued with a sluggish offense. The Whitecaps averaged just more than two runs per game in their win streak, and now have not scored more than four runs in a game since beating Fort Wayne 8-4 on Aug. 17.

    Despite being shut out for the first time since Aug. 15, the Whitecaps did have a handful of quality scoring chances against a Dragons pitching staff that arguably is the best in the Midwest League. Dayton entered Saturday leading the league in wins (76), ERA (3.42), shutouts (12) and strikeouts (1,196).

    West Michigan had only eight singles, including collecting two in the same inning three times.

    The first time came in the third when Dixon Machado and Hernan Perez each singled, but Steven Moya flied out to end the inning.

    A golden scoring opportunity came in the sixth when Moya led off with a single, but was erased in a double play. Ryan Hamme followed that with a single.

    The last rally came in the ninth when Nick Castellanos and Jason Krizan each singled, but James McCann struck out to end the game.

    Dayton got all the offense it needed in the fourth when Kurtis Miller walked and Donald Lutz singled. Tucker Barnhart then hit a fly ball to center fielder Luis Castillo that was eventually turned into a double play, but Miller scored.

    The Whitecaps wasted an excellent pitching performance by starter Kyle Ryan, who gave up only one earned run in six innings. He allowed four hits and struck out five.

    Three Dayton pitchers combined on an eight-hitter. Starter Daniel Corcino threw five scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 3.07.
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    Whitecaps' offense still scoreless vs. Dayton in series after second shutout in a row | MLive.com

    Published: Sunday, August 28, 2011, 7:35 PM Updated: Sunday, August 28, 2011, 7:42 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    DAYTON, Ohio -- The top team in the Midwest League is putting the West Michigan Whitecapsí playoff hopes in jeopardy.

    The Whitecapsí offense was silenced by the first-place Dayton Dragons for the second consecutive game in Sundayís 6-0 loss.

    West Michigan hasnít scored in 18 consecutive innings against the Dragons in the first two games of a four-game series. It was shut out 2-0 on Saturday night.

    Despite the defeat, the Whitecaps remain two games out of a playoff berth in the Eastern Division with eight games remaining after Fort Wayne lost 5-3 in 10 innings to Lansing.

    West Michigan has produced only 21 runs in its past 11 games.

    On Sunday, the Whitecaps had few scoring chances against Dayton starter Josh Smith, who won his 13th game with six shutout innings and retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced.

    The Whitecaps went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, and reached third base only three times.

    West Michiganís Brian Stroud (0-2) struggled in his third Midwest League start, allowing six runs on eight hits and two home runs in three innings.

    Stroud gave up three two-out runs in the first inning, including a two-run home run to David Vidal after a 13-pitch at-bat.

    Juan Duran hit a solo shot in the second inning off Stroud, and Dayton added two more runs in the third.

    West Michiganís bullpen didnít allow a run in the final five innings.

    The Whitecaps scraped out six hits and fanned eight times, but Nick Castellanosí ninth-inning double moved him closer to a franchise milestone.

    Castellanos now has 147 hits, 11 shy of Robert Fickís single-season franchise record.

    Todd goes on DL
    Reliever Jade Todd was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a sore hamstring. Patrick Cooper took his spot in the bullpen after being activated from the disabled list. Todd was 1-0 with a 0.63 ERA in his past eight appearances, while Cooper had been out since Aug. 8 with right forearm tightness.
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    Whitecaps' Alex Burgos earns Midwest League weekly pitching honor | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, August 29, 2011, 1:25 PM Updated: Monday, August 29, 2011, 1:29 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    West Michigan Whitecaps pitcher Alex Burgos has been named the Midwest League's Pitcher of the Week.

    The 20-year-old Burgos made just one start last week but tossed eight scoreless innings and allowed three hits in the Whitecaps' 1-0, 12-inning victory against Lake County last Thursday.

    Since joining the Whitecaps on June 9, Burgos, a fifth-round selection by the Tigers in 2010, has posted a 6-4 record and 2.20 ERA in 14 starts.

    He is holding batters to a .190 batting average and has 82 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings.

    Burgos becomes the second Whitecaps player to be honored this season. Pitcher Kyle Ryan won the award in late-July after throwing six no-hit innings on July 28.
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    Whitecaps' Nick Castellanos, Hernan Perez, Rob Brantly named to MWL Postseason All-Star Team | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, August 29, 2011, 6:00 PM Updated: Monday, August 29, 2011, 6:09 PM
    By Michael Zuidema | The Grand Rapids Press

    Four members of the West Michigan Whitecaps received recognition from the Midwest League on Monday.

    Third baseman Nick Castellanos, second baseman Hernan Perez and catcher Rob Brantly were named to the Midwest League's Postseason All-Star Team, while pitcher Alex Burgos was named the Midwest League's Pitcher of the Week.

    TheWhitecaps landed the most members on the postseason team, which is voted on by the league's 16 managers.

    Castellanos, the Detroit Tigers' first-round pick in the 2010 draft, leads the league with 147 hits and is on track to challenge the Whitecaps' single-season franchise record of 158 set by Robert Fick in 1997. He also is tied for the league lead with 34 doubles, is fourth with a .310 average and has a team-high 71 RBIs through 127 games.

    Perez leads the Whitecaps with 67 runs. He also is batting .267 with eight home runs, 40 RBIs, 22 doubles and 20 stolen bases in 122 games. Before the all-star break, he was hitting .306 with 19 extra-base hits and 41 runs.

    Brantly received the honor despite being promoted to Lakeland on July 21. In 75 games with West Michigan, he had a .303 average, seven homers, 44 RBIs and threw out 34 percent of base runners attempting to steal.

    Both Perez and Brantly started for the Eastern Division in the 2011 Midwest League All-Star Game in June.

    Burgos threw eight scoreless innings and allowed just three hits in the Whitecaps' 1-0, 12-inning win against Lake County on Aug. 25. He is the second Whitecap to earn the honor this season, joining Kyle Ryan, who won the award in late July after he threw six no-hit innings on July 28.

    The rest of the postseason all-star team included: first baseman Jesus Aguilar (Lake County), shortstop Billy Hamilton (Dayton), outfielders Michael Crouse (Lansing), Rymer Liriano (Fort Wayne) and Jake Marisnick (Lansing), designated hitter Josh Whitaker (Burlington), right-handed starter Greg Billo (Kane County), left-handed starter C.J. Riefenhauser (Bowling Green), right-handed reliever Drew Hayes (Dayton), and left-handed reliever Chris Rearick (Bowling Green).

    E-mail Michael Zuidema: mzuidema@grpress.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/michaelzuidema
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    Early offense helps Whitecaps beat Dragons, stay in Midwest League playoff chase | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, August 29, 2011, 10:15 PM Updated: Monday, August 29, 2011, 10:29 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    DAYTON, Ohio -- The West Michigan Whitecaps finally were able to shrug off their recent offensive woes.

    The Whitecaps scored three runs in the first two innings and stayed within striking distance of a playoff berth with Monday nightís 5-1 win against the Dayton Dragons.

    West Michigan is one game back of Fort Wayne for the second-half wild-card spot with seven games remaining.

    The five runs were the most scored by the Whitecaps since Aug. 17.

    After being shut out in the first two games of the four-game series, West Michigan (34-29, 66-66) snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak to the Dragons in the first inning. Luis Castilloís sacrifice fly scored Dixon Machado, who singled to lead off the game.

    Josh Ashenbenner extended the lead to 3-0 in the second with a two-run double, and a two-out RBI single by Nick Castellanos in the fifth made it 4-1.

    The Whitecaps tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when Jeff Rowland tripled and scored on a ground out.

    Starter Kevin Eichhorn (10-5) became the first Whitecaps pitcher to reach double-digit wins after tossing six strong innings.

    Eichhorn, who won his first game since Aug. 7, allowed three hits -- all singles -- and one unearned run. He walked one and struck out two.

    Michael Torrealba picked up his eighth save with three scoreless innings.
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    Whitecaps miss chance to pull even in battle for Midwest League playoff spot | MLive.com

    Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 11:05 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 11:06 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    DAYTON, Ohio -- The West Michigan Whitecaps couldnít have picked a worse time to stop hitting.

    With the final six games of the season coming up, the Whitecaps continued to struggle to score in Tuesday nightís 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Dayton Dragons.

    The Whitecaps lost three of four games against Dayton, including being shut out in the first two games of the series. West Michigan has scored three runs or less in 16 of its past 20 games since Aug. 10. Thanks to strong pitching, however, the Whitecaps have won 10 of those games.

    The Whitecaps missed a chance to pull even with Fort Wayne for the wild-card spot in the Eastern Division. Fort Wayne lost to Lansing 5-1 on Tuesday for its third loss in the past four games.

    The Whitecaps and TinCaps end the season with a three-game series that starts Saturday at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    The Whitecaps let a 2-0 lead slip away against the Dragons. The Whitecaps scored a run in the first inning on an RBI single by Nick Castellanos, and went up 2-0 in the fourth on a James Robbins home run. It was Robbinsí 14th homer.

    But the Dragons scored once in the seventh, and tied the game on Donald Lutzís home run in the eighth.

    Lutz then won the game in the 10th with his 19th homer of the season, an opposite-field shot that found the first row of the seats.

    Whitecaps starter Alex Burgos pitched six shutout innings. He struck out three, gave up just four hits and didnít walk a batter.

    Relievers Ryan Woolley and Daniel Bennett both gave up runs, with Bennett giving up the game-winner to Lutz.
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    James Robbins homers twice as Whitecaps beat Captains, pull even in playoff race | MLive.com

    Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 10:30 PM Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 10:39 PM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    EASTLAKE, Ohio -- West Michigan Whitecaps first baseman James Robbins regained his power stroke Wednesday night.

    Robbins broke out of a month-long slump with two home runs and five RBIs to lift the Whitecaps to a 7-3 victory against the Lake County Captains.

    Robbins, who was hitting .182 in August, helped the Whitecaps pull even with Fort Wayne in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

    Fort Wayne lost 9-8 to South Bend. Both Fort Wayne and West Michigan are 35-30 in the second half with five games remaining.

    West Michigan has won eight of its past 11 games and ended the month with a 17-13 record.

    Robbins became the fourth Whitecap to deliver a multi-home run game with his team-high 15th and 16th of the season.

    He went 3-for-4 with a RBI single in the first inning, a solo shot in the fourth and a three-run homer in the sixth to put West Michigan ahead 5-0.

    The Whitecaps led 7-0 after before the Captains scored three runs in the ninth inning.

    West Michigan starter Brian Flynn (7-2) picked up his fifth win in his past six starts by tossing six scoreless innings. He allowed five hits, struck out four and didnít issue a walk.

    The Whitecaps finished with 15 hits, including five extra-base hits, and every starter had at least one hit.

    Curt Casali had two doubles and drove in a run in the sixth. Ryan Hamme, Clay Jones and Jeff Rowland also had two hits each.
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    Whitecaps beat Captains again, remain tied with Fort Wayne for final playoff spot | MLive.com

    Published: Friday, September 02, 2011, 12:15 AM Updated: Friday, September 02, 2011, 12:36 AM
    By The Grand Rapids Press

    EASTLAKE, Ohio -- The West Michigan Whitecaps kept their Midwest League playoff hopes alive Thursday.

    The Whitecaps used a five-run fourth inning to defeat the Lake County Captains 7-2 and remain in the hunt for a second-half playoff berth.

    West Michigan (36-30, 68-67) enters the final four games of the regular season tied with the Fort Wayne TinCaps for the wild-card spot in the Eastern Division.

    Fort Wayne rallied for a 7-6 win in 11 innings against South Bend.

    The Whitecaps have one game left at Lake County before returning home for a three-game series against the TinCaps.

    West Michigan trailed 1-0 before jumping on the Captains in the fourth inning.

    Three walks, a pair of sacrifice bunts and a RBI double by Nick Castellanos gave the Whitecaps a 5-1 lead.

    West Michigan tacked on two more runs in the eighth when Castellanos and Ryan Hamme started a rally with back-to-back singles.

    Clay Jonesí sacrifice fly made it 6-2, and James Robbins drove in the final run with a double.

    Whitecaps starter Josue Carreno tossed five strong innings for the win. He scattered six hits and allowed one run while striking out five.
    Daniel Bennett earned his third save with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

    Castellanos moved within five hits of West Michiganís single-season franchise record with a 3-for-4 night, including a pair of doubles.

    Robbins had two hits and scored a run. He is 6-for-11 in his past three games.

    The two teams combined for seven errors, including five by Lake County.
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    Whitecaps head into winner-take-all series with Fort Wayne for final MWL playoff spot | MLive.com

    Published: Friday, September 02, 2011, 10:35 PM
    Updated: Friday, September 02, 2011, 10:41 PM
    By Steve Vedder | The Grand Rapids Press

    The five-month baseball season has come down to this for the West Michigan Whitecaps:

    Win two of three games against the Fort Wayne TinCaps this weekend and advance to the Midwest League playoffs for the 15th time in the clubís 18-year history. Or lose the series, pack up the bats and balls, and head into the offseason.

    It will be one scenario or the other for the Whitecaps, who tuned up for the crucial series by blanking host Lake County 3-0 on Friday.

    The Whitecaps and Fort Wayne (37-30) head into the season-ending three-game series Saturday at Fifth Third Ballpark tied for the Eastern Divisionís final playoff spot. The team that wins the series advances to Wednesdayís first-round playoff series, while the other misses out on the postseason.

    Whitecaps manager Ernie Young said itís the kind of winner-take-all series any ballplayer loves.

    "A lot of players play a long time for this and never get the chance," Young said. "You play 140 games and it comes down to the last three. Thatís the kind of thing baseball is made for."

    The Whitecaps and TinCaps have headed in different directions with the season winding down. West Michigan, which hasnít missed the playoffs since 2003, has won 10 of its past 13 games after sweeping three games from Lake County. Fort Wayne has lost six of its past 10 games, though the TinCaps did beat South Bend two of three games this week in their tuneup for the Whitecaps.

    West Michigan is 10-9 against Fort Wayne this season.

    Young said he has believed all along the Whitecaps are a playoff-quality team.

    "Obviously, when you start the season, the first thing you want to do is develop players into major league-type players," Young said. "My goal since day one was to make them better. Itís September now, and since April theyíve gotten better."

    Saturdayís 7 p.m. game will be followed by 1 p.m. games Sunday and Monday.

    The Whitecaps will pitch Brian Stroud (0-2, 7.07) tonight. He will be followed by Kevin Eichhorn (10-5, 3.63) and Alex Burgos (6-4, 2.05) in the final two games.

    Offensively, All-Star third baseman Nick Castellanos went hitless in four at-bats Friday in his quest to break the Whitecapsí single-season hit record. That leaves Castellanos with 153 hits, six shy of breaking Robert Fickís club record of 158 in 1997. Castellanos is batting .309, the seventh-highest average in club history.

    The Whitecaps scored single runs in the third, sixth and ninth innings to beat Lake County. Dixon Machado singled in the first run, while Clay Jones drove in the second with an RBI single. In the ninth, the Whitecaps got a double by Curtis Casali, single by Josh Ashenbrenner and a bounce out by Jeff Rowland that made it 3-0.

    West Michigan starter Kyle Ryan (6-10) gave up four hits in six innings and struck out six to get the win. Whitecaps pitchers retired the gameís final 17 hitters.

    --------------------------------------------------

    'CAPS COMPLETE SWEEP AS "PLAY-IN" SERIES LOOMS | West Michigan Whitecaps News

    09/02/2011 10:37 PM ET

    EASTLAKE, OH - The West Michigan Whitecaps completed a three-game series sweep with a 3-0 win over the Lake County Captains on Friday night at Classic Park, setting up a crucial season-ending series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps that will decide the Eastern Division's final playoff spot.

    Three West Michigan (37-30, 69-67) pitchers combined on a four-hit shutout to completely stifle the Lake County (22-45, 50-86) offense on Friday.

    Now, with just three games remaining in the regular season, West Michigan and Fort Wayne will open their season-ending three-game series on Saturday with identical 37-30 records. The Eastern Division's second-half Wild Card berth will be on the line in what is essentially a best-of-three "play-in" series to the post-season. The winner of the series will head to the playoffs while the loser will see their season come to an abrupt halt.

    Friday's win was spearheaded by starting pitcher Kyle Ryan (6-10). The 19-year-old left-hander twirled six scoreless innings and allowed four hits, striking out six without issuing a walk. He earned his 15th quality start of the season and allowed just one runner to reach third base.

    The bullpen contributed three flawless innings, with Kevan Hess retiring all six of the batters he faced and Michael Torrealba (9) adding a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

    The three hurlers combined to retire the final 17 batters of the game in order, holding the Captains without a baserunner after the fourth inning.

    The Whitecaps' offense cracked the scoreboard in the top of the third. Josh Ashenbrenner, who went 3-for-4 in the ballgame, started the rally by looping a one-out single over the head of the second baseman. He moved to second base on a groundout. Dixon Machado followed by lining a two-out single to right-center, scoring Ashenbrenner for a 1-0 lead.

    West Michigan doubled the advantage in the sixth. Nick Castellanos drew a one-out walk and Ryan Hamme doubled him to third, forcing Lake County to bring their infield in. Clay Jones smacked the very next pitch up the middle for a groundball single, scoring Castellanos for a 2-0 edge.

    The Whitecaps added an insurance run in the top of the ninth for good measure. Curt Casali doubled with one out and took third on an infield single before scoring on a fielder's choice groundout for a 3-0 lead.

    Jordan Cooper (2-9) suffered the loss for Lake County despite a solid outing. He was charged with two runs on eight hits over seven innings.

    The Whitecaps return to Fifth Third Ballpark to close out the regular season with a three-game series against the Fort Wayne TinCaps that will determine which club clinches the Eastern Division's final playoff berth. The first game of the series will be at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night with RHP Brian Stroud (0-2, 7.07) pitching for West Michigan against RHP Matt Jackson (4-1, 1.99) for Fort Wayne. The final scheduled night game of the season will feature entertainment from The Famous Chicken and post-game fireworks courtesy of Farm Bureau Insurance. Tickets can be reserved by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting whitecapsbaseball.com.


    This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
    Last edited by TigersFan81371; 09-03-2011 at 01:05 AM.
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    Whitecaps lose to Fort Wayne, face must-win situation to keep MWL playoff hopes alive | MLive.com

    Published: Saturday, September 03, 2011, 11:15 PM Updated: Saturday, September 03, 2011, 11:18 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- The West Michigan Whitecaps put themselves in an unwanted predicament Saturday night.

    Following a late-inning rally that fell short in a 6-5 loss against the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Fifth Third Ballpark, the Whitecaps need to win their final two regular-season games to extend their string of consecutive playoff appearances to eight.

    West Michigan dropped a game back of the TinCaps after losing the opener of the final series, which will determine the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

    "You have to win one before you win two," Whitecaps manger Ernie Young said. "(Sunday) is probably the most important game of the year. We have to go out and have a lot of energy because it is a must win."

    The Whitecaps and TinCaps are the only Midwest League teams contending for a playoff berth.

    The winner of this three-game series will claim the wild card and play first-half champion Bowling Green.

    The Whitecaps have to win to avoid elimination and force a winner-take-all game Monday.

    "All of the games we have played this season comes down to (Sunday)," said Whitecaps third baseman Nick Castellanos, who went 2-for-4 and scored a run. "It all comes down to this game if we are going to make the playoffs or not."

    In a back-and-forth affair that included five combined errors, the turning point Saturday night was a three-run home run by Fort Wayneís Connor Powers off reliever Patrick Cooper in a four-run 7th inning that snapped a 2-2 tie.

    Cooper gave up four hits and hit a batter in just one inning after replacing starter Brian Stroud, who went six innings and allowed seven hits and two unearned runs.

    The Whitecaps mounted a comeback in the eighth and scored three runs to trim the deficit to 6-5.

    Ryan Hamme and Clay Jones had RBI singles, and Jones scored on a two-out error by Fort Wayne second baseman Cory Spangenberg.

    "We gave ourselves opportunities to win, and we battled," Young said. "But when you give up a couple unearned runs early like we did then it is going to come back and bite you."

    Ryan Wooley got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, but the Whitecaps couldnít get the game-tying run in the bottom of the inning after a controversial ending.

    Hernan Perez delivered a one-out single, and Castellanos struck out and then was called for batterís interference after Perez had successfully stolen second base.

    "I didnít see it, I was watching Hernan at second base," Young said. "I did not see the interference at the plate, but it was just a tough play to end the ball game on a call like that. It was unfortunate."

    The Whitecaps fell behind 1-0 in the first, but tied it in the first on a RBI ground out by Castellanos that scored Dixon Machado, who walked to lead off the inning.

    Castellanos had a pair of infield singles and is three hits shy of tying Robert Fickís single-season franchise record of 155.

    Jones added three hits for the Whitecaps.
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    Whitecaps pound Fort Wayne, winner-take-all game for final MWL playoff spot set | MLive.com

    Published: Sunday, September 04, 2011, 7:05 PM Updated: Sunday, September 04, 2011, 7:13 PM
    By Jeff Chaney | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- With their season, and streak of seven consecutive postseason appearances on the line, the offense came alive for the West Michigan Whitecaps.

    In a must-win situation against the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Sunday, West Michigan responded with an offensive output that included small and long ball in a 10-3 win in front of 7,155 fans at Fifth Third Ballpark.

    The result forces a winner-take-all game on todayís final day of the Midwest League regular season. The West Michigan-Fort Wayne winner gets the final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

    In Sundayís game, the Whitecaps scored two runs by sacrifice, hit two home runs and took advantage of a TinCaps error and eight walks.

    The last time the Whitecaps had scored double-digit runs was Aug. 12, so the offensive explosion couldnít have come at a better time for West Michigan manager Ernie Young.

    "I thought today was great," Young said. "The whole game was about being aggressive. We had nothing to lose. We knew what we were facing today, and came out and were aggressive. It was game 138, and the most important game of the year."


    Every player in the West Michigan lineup had at least one of the 13 Whitecaps hits.

    One of the biggest bats for the day was third baseman Nick Castellanos, who was 3-for-4, scored two runs and hit his seventh home run of the season.

    Castellanos tied Robert Fick for the most hits in a season by a West Michigan player with 158.

    On the record-breaking hit, a shot off Fort Wayne shortstop B.J. Guinnís glove, Castellanos pumped his fist on the way to first base.

    After that, the ball was given to him at first base, but he promptly threw it into the stands for an extra special souvenir.

    "The most important thing to me is that the team stepped up," said Castellanos, 19. "Everyone came (pumped) up today, because we knew there would be no tomorrow if we lost it. And (West Michigan starter Kevin Eichhorn) threw a great game."

    Eichhorn (11-5) threw eight innings of six-hit, three-run ball. He walked one and struck out four.

    He had one rough stretch, when Fort Wayne hit a triple and home run in the fourth inning to score two of its three runs.

    "It all starts with pitching," Young said. "He went out and pitched a great game and gave us an opportunity to win."
    Now, Young hopes his team can carry the momentum into today.

    "Thatís game 139, and now thatís the most important game of the year," Young said. "After(today), there is no tomorrow, unless you win."
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    Whitecaps miss Midwest League playoffs after losing to Fort Wayne in season finale | MLive.com

    Published: Monday, September 05, 2011, 9:25 PM Updated: Monday, September 05, 2011, 9:31 PM
    By Dean Holzwarth | The Grand Rapids Press

    COMSTOCK PARK -- The remaining crowd of more than 6,700 at Fifth Third Ballpark showed their appreciation to the West Michigan Whitecaps with a standing ovation following Mondayís final pitch.

    It was a farewell tribute that came sooner than expected.

    West Michiganís valiant season-half playoff push ended on the final day of the regular season with a 7-2 loss against the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

    The Whitecaps failed to qualify for the Midwest League playoffs for the first time since 2003 after finishing a game behind the TinCaps for the wild-card spot in the Eastern Division.

    The season-ending defeat snapped a string of seven consecutive postseason appearances -- a franchise record.

    "Itís definitely tough," Whitecaps first baseman James Robbins said. "Especially from where we started with that slump in the beginning of the season. And then to grind it out and put ourselves in position like we did at the end of the season and today to make the playoffs. The postseason is always something you want, and it hurts a little right now."

    The Whitecaps never led in the season finale against the TinCaps, who advance to play Bowling Green in the first round of the playoffs.

    They got to within a run in the eighth inning when Robbinsí sharp single drove in Nick Castellanos and made it 3-2.

    West Michiganís bullpen, however, couldnít keep it close in the ninth. Michael Torrealba and Patrick Cooper combined to allow four walks and two bases-loaded singles in a four-run inning that put the game out of reach.

    "They kept battling and battling, and it was just unfortunate that Fort Wayne got the big inning in the top of the ninth," Whitecaps manager Ernie Young said. "We got behind hitters and put them on, and it makes it a lot tougher on the defense. And eventually, good teams like Fort Wayne put the ball in play."

    The Whitecaps were silenced early by Fort Wayne starter Keyvius Sampson, who struck out eight of the first 11 batters he faced.

    They trailed 2-0 in the fifth before Hernan Perez dropped a double inside the left-field line to score Dixon Machado.

    Fort Wayne extended its lead to 3-1 in the seventh. Connor Powers lined a home run off Whitecaps starter Alex Burgos, who also surrendered a solo homer to Rocky Gale in the second.

    Burgos gave up three runs on four hits in seven innings, but received little run support.

    West Michigan fanned 14 times and managed only six hits.

    "This leaves a bad taste in your mouth," said Castellanos, a rookie third baseman who went 0-for-3 and ended up tying Robert Fickís single-season franchise record for hits with 158.

    "We had such a great team win (Sunday), and we definitely thought the momentum was on our side. But they ended up getting hits when it counted and at the end of the day the scoreboard didnít favor us. It sucks."

    The Whitecaps did conclude the regular season with an overall winning record (70-69), and won 11 of their last 16 games.

    Still, it wasnít enough to extend the season.

    "I thought a 10-4 (record) the last 14 games would get us into the playoffs, and we finished 9-5, so there it is," Young said. "But I told them a couple of days ago that I was proud of them for the way they came back. We werenít playing really well at the beginning of the season, but they kept playing hard and we gave ourselves an opportunity to make the playoffs on the last day."
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    Whitecaps Interviews

    Click the link for interviews with Castellanos, Perez and Eichhorn.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TigersFan81371 View Post
    Oops, not quite all.

    Whitecaps season recap: Nick Castellanos the team's MVP, strong finish a bright spot | MLive.com

    West Michigan Whitecaps beat writers Dean Holzwarth and Michael Zuidema break down the 2011 season:

    MZ: Dean, would you describe this season as a success or a letdown? I have a hard time picking between the two, and maybe thatís because there is truth in both.

    DH: The franchise has become accustomed to making annual trips to the postseason, so in that respect, it was disappointing to not have that happen for the first time in eight years after losing to Fort Wayne on the final day of the regular season. But as a whole, first-year manager Ernie Young was successful at getting the most out of his players and never letting them get down on themselves through difficult stretches. They played much better baseball in the second half and gave themselves a chance at the end.

    MZ: Thatís the thing. If the Whitecaps had just quit down the stretch or spiraled into last place, the season could be labeled a failure. Even though missing the postseason must sting, at least they fought until the bitter end. That only can help these players as they move up the organizational ladder. One thing I think we can both agree on is that Nick Castellanos was the teamís MVP.

    DH: Castellanos was indeed a bright spot for the Whitecaps and emerged as the only consistent bat in the teamís lineup after struggling early to make the transition from high school to the professional level. He improved each month, and had a knack for driving in runs with runners in scoring position. To bat .312 and tie the franchise record with 158 hits was pretty impressive. He has the potential to take over the hot corner in Detroit in a couple years.

    MZ: Whatís even more impressive than overcoming that .179 average and 20 strikeouts in April was his growth at third base. Iím still not 100 percent convinced the Tigers wonít try Castellanos in left field at some point, but the former shortstop improved his mobility and range at the hot corner during the course of the season, which is all you want from a 19-year-old. I fully expect him to get a look at Double-A Erie next season. What do you think was the Whitecaps' main weakness? I have my opinion, but Iíll wait and see if you get it right.

    DH: I thought there was one area of concern that really hindered the Whitecapsí progress, Mike: Their lack of timely hitting in crucial situations. The Whitecaps were among the top four Midwest League teams in hits (1,176), but were near the bottom of the league in runs scored (550). That was the problem. The inability to get runners home was a major factor in losing an abundance of one-run games.

    MZ: Thatís a good one, but youíre wrong. It was the bullpen. With the Whitecaps starters routinely tied to a strict pitch count, the bullpen had some wildly uneven performances, especially when they were trying to get to all-star closer Bruce Rondon. When he went on the disabled list near the end of the season, it put a lot of pressure on Michael Torrealba. He performed well, but the Whitecaps needed more consistency and depth.

    DH: You are right, the bullpen struggled at times, but injuries and the Antonio Cruz trade had a lot to do with that. Rondon wasnít able to return for the final month, although Daniel Bennett was superb in filling that role. The loss of Ramon Lebron to injury in July also set the depleted bullpen back, but I thought starting pitching was the reason for the teamís late-season success.

    MZ: Really? I would have went with Alex Burgosí dancing ability. (Google "Alex Burgos YouTube" to see why.) All kidding aside, a lot of credit for the late-season improvement should go to Young and pitching coach Mark Johnson. I liked Youngís all-business approach to managing. Early in the season, he wasnít worrying about wins or losses, he was focusing on the kids developing as players and professionals. He just stayed the course, and it paid off down the stretch, even if the team came up one game short. I did not, however, get the impression that he enjoyed postgame interviews with me. Then again, heís probably not the only coach to feel that way.

    DH: Ernie was all-business in everything he did, especially with the media folk, although I did see him crack a smile once when I referred to his beloved Chicago Bears getting whipped by the New York Giants in a preseason game. But that is his personality, and I think the players respected him for it. Ernie has a great baseball mind and knows how to handle his players. He demanded a lot from them, and they understood that. The team missing the playoffs does not dismiss his astute managerial abilities and I expect him to back next season to help the team make another run at the postseason.

    MZ: I agree. But I donít think Young liked you, either.
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