Arkansas Travelers Manager Phillip Wellman has seen before the pattern the Travs are exhibiting.
Like last year, the Travelers had their moments in the first half and came close to winning the Texas League first-half division. Also like last year, they came on at the end of the season and won the second-half. With 20 games left as of this past Tuesday, Arkansas has a six-game lead over second-place Northwest Arkansas Naturals and is nine games ahead of the Tulsa and Springfield. If the Travelers take care of business, a second-half division title could be theirs.
“This is typical of a good team,” Wellman said. “It happened a couple of years ago when I was with Springfield. It’s the same thing as then, and we had a great group of kids. Like that team, this team has great chemistry and is a great group of kids. ”
Wellman said the same thing also occurred in 2008 when he was with Mississippi Braves so he is accustomed to the ups and downs. One thing Wellman is particularly pleased with is the hitting slump the Travs seemed to have pulled out at home. For a while, their hitting percentage and performance was better on the road.
“I think the guys finally bought into the mindset they could hit at home,” Wellman said. “I like our execution with runners at third.”
Arkansas is winning games in all kinds of ways—pulling them out in late innings, grabbing a lead early and also having big innings. Lately, they have been producing lots of runs in one inning which have been good enough for victories. What they are doing now, Wellman said wouldn’t have happened in the first half of the season.
“They have a level of confidence in themselves and collectively as a team, and that is really big,” Wellman said. “I was telling Matt Long two months ago when we fell behind we were in trouble. I said all we need right now is one hit, and we got three hits.”
Wellman said one thing that needs improvement is the pitchers are giving up too many hits when ahead in the count. He said they have to quit giving a good pitch when the count is 0-2 or 1-2. He is pleased with the defense and hopes the guys can carry on playing good defense.
Arkansas hit the road Tuesday for three games at San Antonio and three at Corpus Christi. Wellman said the goal is a .500 record on the road and for the Travs to take care of business.
“It’s pretty magical,” he said. “The guys have great chemistry and are staying together and help each other get up.”