Living in Southwest Florida has awarded me the opportunity to watch professional baseball almost all year round, from spring training in February and March, to minor league baseball during the summer months. For a person like me that never gets enough, its awesome to be able to watch great baseball games right in my own backyard.
The Minnesota Twins Class-A Advanced affiliate, the Fort Myers Miracle, have played some great baseball over the years, with a Florida State League title as early as three years ago, in 2014.
Every season the team strives to get back on top and after a tough first half in 2017, where they finished 33-35 and in third place at the break, they are now playing better baseball, just ten games into the second half of the season.
The team experienced a slow start the first week after the all-star game, finishing 2-4, but four straight wins from June 25-30 ended the month on a high note. Then they continued their hot hitting ways, taking the next two of three games from the St. Lucie Mets, which included a doubleheader split on Sunday and a comeback victory on Monday to secure the series clinching victory. The Miracle (7-3) are right in the hunt for first place as they keep pace with the Palm Beach Cardinals (8-3).
"The dynamic of the new players combined with the progression of the guys who have been here all year put the Miracle in a good position to contend for the second half crown," Miracle Broadcast & Media Relations Coordinator Spencer Siegel shared with me when I asked him how he felt the team looked for a second half title run.
Over the years the Miracle have had some elite ball players come through Fort Myers showcasing their skills and now in the second half some are looking to add their name to that growing list.
"Jermaine Palacios is a human highlight reel at shortstop and Zander Wiel is finding his rhythm as we move into July. Meanwhile, Max Murphy can't stop recording base hits," added Siegel.
Since being called up on June 23rd from the Cedar Rapids Kernels, Palacios is also doing it with the bat as he is hitting .389 (14 for 36) with seven runs scored, six RBIs, two walks and two stolen bases. He has an eight game hitting streak and has also hit safely in eight of nine since his promotion. Brandon Lopez , who was also called up on the same day from the Kernels, has played along side Palacios at third base and he too has been hot with the bat, hitting .524 (11 for 21), with four runs scored, seven RBIs and five walks over his last five games and after a single on Monday night, he now has a seven game hitting streak.
As Siegel stated, all Max Murphy has done is hit, and he is currently enjoying a 10 game hitting streak, with seven multi-hit games in that span. He has recorded three 2-hit games, three 3-hit games and one 4-hit game and doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. Over his current 10 games, he is batting .578 (22 for 38), with 10 runs scored, a home run, and six RBIs.
But the success of this team has also come from guys like catcher Kevin Garcia and infielder Nelson Molina , who had key hits in recent days to help lead the team to victory. The second half has propelled the Miracle to believe in their abilities and as a spectator at the games, it is evident that they have the right ingredients to win the organizations first division title since 2014.
The offense can be explosive and I was a witness to that over the past weekend against the St. Lucie Mets, when the Miracle scored 11 runs in the 8th inning of Friday's game, eight runs in the second game of Sunday's Doubleheader and six runs in the 7th inning of the finale on Monday. Fort Myers has a powerful lineup that is just starting to build the right chemistry.
As for the mound, manager Doug Mientkiewicz has done a great job mixing and matching the right guys and they have responded by keeping their team in the games. All Star relief pitcher Sam Clay has been a standout and one of the most reliable arms out of the pen, as he hasn't given up an earned run since May 28th and over the last 10 games his ERA is 0.66, with 15 Ks's in 13.2 IP. Overall on the season, he is 6-0, with a 1.82 ERA, four saves, and 42 K's in 39.2 IP, all out of the pen.
It would be great to see the Miracle get back into the playoffs, and the way this team is starting to gel, the second half of the season is sure to involve exciting baseball games in Southwest Florida.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.