SAUGET — The Gateway Grizzlies return to GCS Ballpark on Tuesday to begin a six-game homestand in basically the same situation as they left it a week ago -- playing good baseball and looking up at the first place Normal Cornbelters in the West Division.
Fresh off a 4-2 road trip and a doubleheader sweep of archrival River City on Saturday, Gateway (13-7) will host the Frontier Greys (9-11) in the first of a three-game series beginning at 7:05 p.m.
The Greys, who play all of their games on the road, will be followed into GCS Ballpark by Frontier League West Division leading Normal beginning on Friday.
The Cornbelters (15-6) enter the week with a 1 1/2 game advantage over the Grizzlies.
Gateway enters play tonight with a four-game winning streak. The Grizzlies lost a doubleheader at Florence on Wednesday but have outscored their opponents 17-5 in the last four outings.
Grizzlies manager Phil Warren said Sunday that he likes the way his team is playing.
"We are happy with our current position. We had a great week with the exception of Wednesday when we came out flat and didn't play well in both ends of a doubleheader,'' Warren said. "The guys are playing hard and competing. As a manager, that's exciting and satisfying.''
The Grizzlies, led by ace Tim Brown and Ja'Vaun West, have been outstanding on the mound through the first 20 games.
West is 3-0 with a microscopic 1.87 ERA, while Brown is 3-2 with an ERA of 2.82. Closer Richard Barrett has also been solid with six saves in seven chances.
Gateway enters play this week with a team ERA 3.45.
"Our starting pitching has been pretty solid, top to bottom,'' Warren said. "With that said, our pitchers have walked a lot of people. Our offense has been a little inconsistent but we know this a good lineup that will produce throughout the season.
On the offensive side, leftfielder Jon Myers leads the Grizzlies with a .329 average and 11 RBI. But the Grizzlies have been inconsistent with the bats. Gateway has just a .246 team average.
"Jon Myers has been steady for us. A lot of role players have taken advantage of playing time as well. Matt Mirabal homered Saturday and Spiker Helms had a great weekend. We have a bunch of competitors who are ready when their name is called,'' Warren said.
"Our average as a team is low, but we have still put up a decent amount of runs. Our situational hitting has actually been pretty good as of late and we have capitalized with runners on base and in scoring position.''
The Grizzlies-Greys series continues on Wednesday with an 11:35 a.m. first pitch and concludes on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
Normal then invades GCS Ballpark on Friday for an early season showdown between two teams expected to be in the heat of the West Division race all season.
Warren isn't putting any special significance on the three-game set.
"It's just like any other series for us,'' Warren said. "Sure, they are leading the division, but we know if we play well and play like we are capable of playing, we will give ourselves a chance to win. Normal has certainly been one of the surprises so far.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org