Splash at the game

Fans clamor for a free pizza during a recent Myrtle Beach Pelicans game.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans have already earned a playoff berth courtesy of their first half Southern Division victory, but the second half hasn’t seen the winning consistency that manager Buddy Bailey would like to see heading into the postseason. With just over two weeks to play in the regular season, the time is now for Myrtle Beach to tune the entire system up in time for the first round.

Below, a look around the Carolina League, including the players to watch as potential difference-makers over the next two weeks of play.

Relying on new faces in

Myrtle Beach

The second half hasn’t been terribly kind to the Pelicans, but there have been several additions who have the ability to turn the tide as the season closes.

On the mound, it’s starter Duncan Robinson due to turn in several key performances down the stretch. The right-hander has made just seven starts with the team since his promotion from single-A South Bend in early July, preventing runs at a superb rate. Robinson has posted a 2.34 ERA in 34.2 innings, holding opponents to a .242 average against and allowing just 30 hits. 

In the middle infield, it’s all about the duo of Vimael Machin and Zack Short. 

Machin has been a dynamic threat since arriving in mid-July, hitting for a .297 average and posting an on-base percentage of .366. He’s not a power threat, but the 23-year-old has been one of the most consistent members of the lineup. 

Short, a 17th rounder from last season, continues to be both one of the team’s biggest sluggers and on-base threats.

He leads the team with a .383 on-base percentage and his 16 extra-base hits have put runs on the board in timely situations. If the Pelicans are looking to win another title, Short will need to hold onto his red-hot bat.

Buies Creek leads battle for the Southern Division

Over the second half of the season, the Carolina League’s Southern Division is in firm grasp of the Buies Creek Astros. The newest addition to the league has jumped out to a 7.5-game lead as of Tuesday, essentially locking up the spot in the semi-finals against Myrtle Beach.

In terms of offensive production, the catalyst to the Buies Creek success has been outfielder Myles Straw. In his second full season in the Houston organization, the 22-year-old has a sky-high .415 on-base percentage, walking 83 times in 110 games. The free passes have been crucial to his success, and if he continues to stay healthy, he’ll be Myrtle Beach’s biggest threat should the Astros reach the series.

On the mound, starter Hector Perez remains Buies Creek’s most dominant threat for opposing lineups. One of the top prospects in the Astros system, he’s allowed just a .212 average against this season, 61 hits in 81.2 innings pitched. If there’s a major roadblock on the hill, it’s the arm of Perez.

A look ahead

Myrtle Beach has just one more home-stand on the season before the playoffs kick off in the second week of September. 

Next week, the Pelicans will host a six-game series against Down East and Carolina before heading on the road and taking a short break prior to the five-game playoff set that begins on Sept. 6. 

During that series, the second-half division winner will host the first two games before heading to TicketReturn.Com Field on the 8th for Game Three. If necessary, games Four and Five are set for Sept. 9,10.

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