Lincoln Saltdogs All-Star Break Review
Record: 24-37, Fourth Place in the Central Division, 19 Games Out
The Lincoln Saltdogs started out the season with a little championship series hangover. After riding a hot streak to the American Association Championship series last season, where they lost to Wichita, the Saltdogs struggled to get themselves going this year. The loss of Jon Gaston and C.J. Ziegler to injuries has really challenged this club, but the ship seems to be getting righted.
It is consistency that Lincoln is trying to find right now. In July they are 10-14 but that has included a four-game sweep of Grand Prairie, and an impressive split in St. Paul, but it also includes being swept by Sioux City and dropping three of four to Kansas City. The break may be just what they need to get things turned around.
Things are looking up in Lincoln however. Marshall Schuler returns to close out the backend of the pitching staff, and Zeigler should be back in a couple of weeks at most. This is the second lowest scoring team in the league, so the big bat should definitely help. Gaston may be back near the end of August.
Top Player – Curt Smith
When Zeigler went down, Curt Smith was suddenly thrust into action as the primary first baseman, and he has delivered. In 53 games this season he has hit .319 with 8 home runs and 43 RBI. He has 27 extra-base hits and has played solid first base for the Saltdogs. He had a big bat in the four-game series against the Saints just prior to the break, collecting 7 hits in 14 at-bats in the final three games.
Top Pitcher – Zach Westcott
With the team needing some consistency on offense, much has been expected of the pitching staff and an unsung hero of that staff is Zach Westcott. The right-hander has made 10 appearances since joining the team near the end of June, and has been a key to the resurgence of the bullpen. He has shown he can be a workhorse, pitching in 19 innings in those 10 appearances, with a 3.31 ERA and a 3-1 record.
The Lincoln Saltdogs are not going to win the Central Division, but they have a real shot at the Wild Card at just 10 games out. They have the toughest road to getting to the top of the heap, not only because seven teams are above them, but also because they play a playoff like schedule the rest of the way, facing St. Paul, Gary, Sioux City, Amarillo, Kansas City and Rockland over the next three weeks. If they want to show they are for real this is the time to step up, but it may be a bit too much to ask even for this club.
By Robert Pannier