It was more of the same for the SeaWolves this week. The pitching was hot and the sticks even hotter. They dropped two of three to start things off, but were able to turn the tides after returning home to face Bowie, sweeping the series after dropping six of seven against them early in the season.
There are a lot of guys swinging a hot bat right now for the Wolves, but none has been better than Ryan Strieby. Over the last seven days he has hit .316/.391/1.000 with four homers and nine RBI.
"The last week I was pulling off the ball a little bit and not using my legs and coming up during my swing and not keeping my head down through it. I've been working with [hitting coach] Glenn [Adams] on that, I think that's made a huge difference," Strieby said.
More importantly, he has started hitting well on the road. Entering the week he was hitting .233 with no homers away from Jerry Uht Park. He lit up the Altoona and Harrisburg staff's to the tune of a .286 average on their last road trip and bashed a pair of homers in the process. However, it should be noted that he went hitless in four of the six games.
You can also expect to start seeing Strieby getting some time in left field in case there is need with the big club in Detroit.
"I like it out there. It's a lot more laid back in the outfield. I played there a little bit during spring training so I'm getting used to it. I'm more comfortable now than I first started, but I have long way to go," Strieby said. "Anyway I can get to the big leagues, I'm all for it."
Strieby currently leads the league with nine homers and 27 RBI, and ranks second in slugging (.633).
Scott Sizemore has been equally as good for the ‘Wolves this past week. Entering Sunday's game he was hitting .400/.423/.880 with three homers before going 0-for-5 in the closing game against Bowie.
"I love his hands –not defensively- but he gets his hands through the zone so fast. He has a major league swing. He was the most impressive player I saw out there for them offensively," a scout for the Phillies commented. "I saw him before, his defense needs some work. He lacks some range and his hands aren't so great, but that bat makes up for it."
Sizemore's offensive barrage brought his batting line up to .303/.406/.536 on the season, placing him in the top 15 in each category. He also ranks fifth in homers (5) and eighth in RBI with 20.
Cale Iorg missed a pair of games this week while attending his wife's graduation, but in the action he did see he played well and is showing signs of breaking out of the slump he was in at the plate. Over his last ten games he has hit .303 with a pair of homers, but he still lacks some patience up there. For the season he has struck out 30 times and walked just a single time.
Brennan Boesch has also broken out of his April slump and is settling in nicely at the plate. He lit up the Harrisburg and Bowie staff's on 9-for-21 hitting and added a homer and three RBI to his resume. The most important element to that line: he struck out only twice.
"It's really fun when you can have an impact on a win. That's why you play," Boesch said. "I just think I'm going to get better as the season. Whenever I'm seeing the ball it turns out to be good at-bats."
He continued his success in the opener of the Reading series on Monday at the plate going 1-for-3. In the fifth inning he battled off five pitches on a 3-2 count to and drove in the decisive run in a 3-2 win.
On the pitching side things have remained steady.
Brooks Brown remains one of the most effective hurlers in the Eastern League. In his last outing against Bowie he went seven innings, allowed two runs, walked two and struck out one. It took him 101 pitches to retire 21 batters, making him the first SeaWolves pitcher to reach 100.
"The defense here has helped me a lot. Without a good defense the groundballs are useless. They get a lot of ground balls and make a ton of plays here for me," Brown explained. "I had a good defense in Mobile last season but this defense here is great, so that's a big plus. They've been behind me every single start and that's a big reason I'm 4-0."
Brown's success has been kind of mind boggling. He is an effective sinker/slider pitcher that induces a ton of ground balls, but a fall back to earth appears eminent at some point.
His current batting average on balls in play is a ridiculously low .223. That's a great credit to the SeaWolves defense, which currently leads the league with a .986 team fielding percentage and has committed a league low 15 errors, but it probably has a lot more to do with luck. A .300 BABIP is considered to be around average. .223 is insane. He has also stranded 87.1% of the batters that have reached base on him, which is also a figure that is also quite out of proportion.
Point of reference: Pedro Martinez only stranded 80% of the runners that reached base against him during his peak seasons of 1997 and 1998.
Jon Kibler built on last week's progress by throwing six innings without allowing an earned run against Harrisburg while limiting them to only three hits. He carried that success into the opener of the Reading Series by going 7 2/3 innings and giving up only one run.
Kibler, the Tigers' 2008 minor league pitcher of the year, feels that he is getting better each start and stated that he has been working hard in his bullpen sessions to rebuild his control and battered confidence level.
"Double-A baseball is definitely a lot higher. You can get away with a lot more stuff than you can down there. Guys are a lot strong, guys are a lot bigger, they hit much better. They know what they are looking for and when they get it they hit it real hard," Kibler said. "Ray has helped me a lot with my mechanics from the beginning of the year. I was having a lot trouble throwing strikes.
"My confidence was rattled in the beginning. It's tough to go out there and give up six runs or four runs in a game. Your walking guys and not getting outs. You feel like you are letting the team down. You got to work out of it though."
Jonah Nickerson also handed in his best performance of the year on Sunday against Bowie. After giving up two early runs in the first inning, he recovered over the next five allowing only one run, and walked away with his first AA win. He also struck out six and walked only two.
"This was the best I've felt all season. I haven't pitched up to my potential at all. These last couple weeks have been a relief. I'm going to keep working on things and try to get better every start," Nickerson said. "I'm still not where I want to be."
Nickerson also stated that he has been working on creating more movement on his two-seam fastball during his bullpen sessions and also establishing the inside of the plate to keep hitters honest. They would also like to start seeing him attack more.
Erie will stay at home to host Reading before heading to Bowie to close out the week.
Other points of interest:
-Santo De Leon missed Saturday and Sunday's games due to back stiffness. It isn't believed to be serious, but was back in the lineup Monday.
-Mike Hollimon had his knee drained on Friday and is expected to miss at least two more weeks. Casper Wells is said to be progressing nicely after having surgery to repair his broken hamate. He is in Lakeland rehabbing.
-Josh Rainwater has been Erie's most effective option out of the bullpen over the last two weeks. In his last 11 innings he has given up only one run and struck out eight.
-Jeff Frazier was called up to Toledo; Andy Dirks took his place in the lineup and has seen time in left and at center. He is 1-for-8 in the early going. Frazier is 6-for-12 at the plate over his first three games with a homer.
-Alfredo Figaro missed two starts due to back stiffness, going 14 days between appearances. In his return against Harrisburg he got knocked around for five runs in 5 2/3 innings of work.
-Erie is hitting .273/.357/.467 as a unit. Placing them second, third, and first overall, respectively.
-The SeaWolves lead the league with 32 team home runs and are second in the league with 153 runs scored. They have also turned 38 double-plays, placing them second in the EL.
-Alex Avilia has allowed 18 runners to successfully steal in 32 attempts. He has caught 43.8% of would be runners.
-Brennan Boesch is on a ten game hitting streak and leads the team with ten multi-hit games.
-Brendan Wise will rejoin the SeaWolves on Tuesday after a stint on the disabled list.