Erie MLN: 'Wolves in a Rut

The Erie SeaWolves were undoubtedly happy to see April end, but since the 'Wolves have dropped their first two games of the month, they may just trying to get back in the win column before returning to Jerry Uht Park Friday, for three-game series with Bowie.

Erie (10-13) has hit a skid in recent games, losing five of its last six games. The Wolves have claimed sole possession of last place in the Eastern League Western Division, and currently possess the longest losing streak in the league. Starting Pitching Woes

Perhaps the largest contribution to the losing streak, or lack thereof, has been the Wolves' starting pitching.

In Erie's five losses, starting pitchers have a combined ERA of 9.59. Perhaps more importantly, the staff has been unable to go long into the game, stressing its usually rock solid bullpen.

Part of the problem has been the starters' inability to consistently find the strike zone. Erie starters have averaged to work just four innings per start in the losses, due in large part to a lack of control that has resulted 11 walks during the span.

Among all starters, perhaps Luke Putkonen has struggled the most. Putkonen is 0-3 with an 8.27 ERA for the season, and has accounted for two of the Wolves' last five losses.

Putkonen has begun the year with command issues, as his 9:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio is by far worst on the team.

The right-hander has displayed dashes of brilliance, but seems to break down when things get dicey.

When the bases have been empty, Putkonen has not allowed an earned run, but with runners on, his ERA has ballooned to 16.03 with opponents hitting .386.

A silver lining was provided by Casey Crosby on the mound this week. The 22-year-old seemed to return to his old form, when he pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out seven in the Wolves' 5-0 win over Altoona Saturday.

Crosby (1-1), who missed all of 2010 with a elbow problems, routinely got his fastball into the mid-90s, and registered his first win since August 2009 while with West Michigan. View From the Top

Center fielder Jamie Johnson has solidified the top of the batting order.

Johnson, who turned 24 last Tuesday, celebrated his birthday with a week-long hitting display, during which time he registered three multi-hit games. In five games over the last week, Johnson has gone 7-for-20 at the plate a home run and a pair of RBIs.

Johnson had his best performance Monday night, when he recorded three hits in four at-bats, including his third home run in Eries' 5-2 loss to Binghamton.

On the season, Johnson leads the team in home runs, RBIs (15) and is second to Ben Guez with a .310 average.

If Johnson's run-producing ways continue, manager Chris Cron may be forced to insert him in the middle part of the lineup. But for now, Johnson has found his niche in the leadoff spot.

Stagnation on the Base Paths

Despite owning the fourth best batting average in the Eastern League with a .260 mark, the SeaWolves have also been the most futile on the base paths.

The Wolves have stolen a league-low 13 bases, while being caught 10 times, good for third-most in the Eastern League.

The Week Ahead

Erie will continue a four-game series with Binghamton (8-13) Wednesday, when Jacob Turner will look to overcome his run of bad luck and register his first win.

Following their series with the Mets, the Wolves will then return home to host the Eastern Division-leading Bowie Baysox in a three-game series, before concluding the home stand with a three-game stint against Akron.


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