HILLARY SMITH: RailCats need offense for postseason reality

2013-08-18T20:00:00Z 2013-08-18T21:43:13Z HILLARY SMITH: RailCats need offense for postseason realityHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
August 18, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

GARY | As the RailCats' push for the postseason hits overdrive, their bats are sitting idle.

It's not that the hitters aren't trying, and in some cases there has been statistical production.

However, the production is coming with two outs and none on, or there are too many runners left on base.

Against the sub-.500 Sioux Falls Canaries in a three-game series this weekend, the RailCats had more hits (27-26) and left more men on base (25-19). Sioux Falls jumped from third-worst in the American Association to fourth thanks to two wins against the RailCats. The Canaries continue to be among the best in the league with 93 home runs, while the RailCats have 15.

A high-powered offense hasn't really been the RailCats' style, especially with the high walls and deep fences of U.S. Steel Yard.

Still, being unable to push players across when runs are necessary has never been the RailCats' style either. The small-ball approach only works when the hits can be created.

Right now, they're not even being manufactured. In all, the RailCats were out-scored this weekend 17-8.

Despite the high of Sunday's 2-1 win, there was still a dark cloud hanging over the wood bats sitting in the rack in the corner of the clubhouse.

"We've had four guys ask if they can hit right now (after the game), and more ask to come in early," manager Greg Tagert said. "You don't want to tell a guy to not keep trying and not keep working, but maybe we're going to have to rest to find a little more offense."

The RailCats have tried almost every avenue. Tagert has shaken up the lineup; he's given players extra days of rest; he's brought in different talent and still, the offense isn't producing.

The team found it's stride in late June when it won 10-of-11 to end the month and in doing so never had fewer than seven hits in any game and scored fewer than four runs just once.

Now, the pitching staff, the one that is battling injury, illness and back-to-back weeks of doubleheaders, is being asked to carry the team.

"As well as we've pitched the last couple weeks, we only have a couple wins to show for it," Tagert said. "It's going to happen, I think what you saw today was that pressing. It's one of those things whether you address it in a meeting or when a guy goes to the plate you know the guys are trying. We don't need another day off, but from that a mental break from some of the guys offensively."

The RailCats are planning today to sign a new pitcher in Joe Zeller, a pickup as part of an earlier trade. The pitching staff can only use so much more help to continue to back up a beleaguered offense.

This column is solely the opinion of the writer. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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