"It's a grind right now, everyone is trying to grind through and win as many games as they can heading into the break right now," manager Tom Brookens said. "Every game right now is big."
By taking the series, Erie improved to 31-15 at home, and 8-2 versus the division leading Aeros.
The series also puts Erie, 50-40, ten games over .500 for the first time since June 24. Jonah Nickerson easily had the biggest game of the week for Erie on Sunday by throwing a season high 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball in the 3-2 Erie win. Nickerson carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a two-out single to Jose Constanza.
"I was a effectively wild today and had my fastball working. I also threw my breaking ball a little more there," Nickerson said.
Nickerson unveiled his new delivery after being demoted to the bullpen, but an injury to Duane Below opened a spot in the rotation again. Nickerson was given the opportunity to make a spot start, but his performance has demanded that he stay there.
In his eight starts since the transformation on May 30, Nickerson has posted a 4-3 record with a 4.27 ERA. His only rocky start came June 27 against Harrisburg where he gave up six earned runs in as many innings.
"I've gone through some difficulty with [the new ¾ low delivery]. We're just working on things everyday and trying to improve. I do feel like I'm getting comfortable with it, but at this point it's still trying to figure out what works," Nickerson said.
On the offensive side, Ronnie Bourquin has continued to put up stellar numbers to the surprise of both himself and the coaching staff.
"When a guy comes from low-A ball you never know what you're going to get. He's just put solid AB's together and he's hitting the ball hard," manager Tom Brookens said. "I mean he's hitting the ball real hard, right on the screws. He's come up big when we've needed it the most."
Through his first 20 games Bourquin has hit .290/.370/.908 with three homers and 14 RBI, including a game winning homer on Saturday against Akron.
With the ‘Wolves down 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Bourquin came to the plate with two men on and mashed a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to put Erie ahead for good, 6-4.
"As soon as I hit it I knew it was out. It's one of those where you don't feel anything off the bat. I'm still riding the high, but yeah, that felt great," Bourquin said.
Unfortunately, though, what should have been a feel good week has cost Erie dearly.
They found out that Mike Hollimon will be lost for the rest of the season as he is headed to Texas to have his shoulder operated on. Max Leon will be heading to Lakeland to rehab his injured knee, and both Brennan Boesch and Ryan Strieby endured injuries this week.
Boesch's status isn't considered serious, he injured his shoulder on Tuesday diving for a fly ball, but it's bad enough that he will be held back form this week's All-Star festivities.
Boesch was expected to be ready to return over the weekend, but he experienced a set-back during a batting cage session prior to Saturday's game.
"I was unhappy with where I progressed, but it was one of those things where me, Brookens and the training staff were uncomfortable with bringing me back too early," Boesch said. "So, basically, we've kind of allowed myself to heal better using the days off with the All-Star break."
Boesch is tied for second in the league with 17 home runs along with Strieby, is sixth with 56 RBI and is third with 39 extra-base hits. All those marks are good enough for the team lead.
Strieby is again experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired hamate, and will also be forced to stay home during the All-Star break.
Strieby has now missed 15 games due to lingering problems with his hamate bone, and was relatively ineffective in the power departments during the month of June, where he hit only two homers, the last coming only three days into the month.
"I just couldn't get around on the ball there for a while, so we decided to shut it down. It wasn't something I could hide; I have to use my hand everyday. My power just wasn't there for awhile," Strieby said.
Despite the discomfort, he was been able to remain effective. His performance over the last week against Akron and Altoona garnered him the Easter League Player of the week award before he was shut down for the second time in four weeks. Over the last six days, Strieby hit .466 with two homers and 8 RBI. His season numbers now reside at .310 with 17 homers and 53 RBI.
Quetin Berry of the Reading Phillies will be replacing Boesch in the All-Star game, and Carlos Santana of Akron will take his place in the home run derby.
Strieby's roster spot will remain vacated.
Iorg's split personalities
Brent Clevlen accelerated through the Tigers' farm system after being drafted in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft and got his first cup of coffee in the major leagues before he turned 23. However, the promotion didn't come because he was having stellar season in AA Erie before being called up. In fact, he was struggling badly.
In his previous stops he had performed quite well, but upon reaching Erie the talent that had allowed him to hit .302/.387/.484 the previous season in Lakeland seemed to have abandoned him. It could have been a number of things that led to those numbers plummeting to .230/.313/.357, the most obvious being an advanced talent level, but Clevlen felt that the culprit was poor lighting.
"I can see the ball better up here," Clevlen told the USA Today after being promoted to Detroit. "Te lights are better. It seems like the ball's wider, too. It looks wider. I know it's now."
Clevlen would go on to say that he noticed "dark spots" at the various parks spread throughout the Eastern League.
This theory seems to make sense considering that upon reaching Detroit Clevlen hit .282 over 39 big league at-bats. It's hardly a big enough sample size to draw any type of conclusion, but it's doubtful that the lights were reason behind the vast difference in averages here. Clevlen's .382 BABIP, compared to the more normal .325 he posted with Erie, shows that he was probably just extremely lucky in his short time with the big club.
The fact that Clevlen hit .175 during day games that season and .248 at night is another point to ponder when considering his theory for his yearlong slump with Erie in 2006.
The reason I bring this up is because another SeaWolf, Cale Iorg, appears to be suffering from an extreme case of night blindness.
As a brilliant reader in the forums recently brought to our attention, Iorg's day/night splits are frighteningly disproportionate.
In day games he has hit .333/.414/.529 with three homers, ten RBI, 11 walks and 24 strikeouts over 87 at-bats.
At night those figures drop to .182/.214/.273 with six homers, 19 RBI, seven walks and 69 strikeouts over 226 at-bats. Yikes…
Let's try to put this extreme statistical anomaly into perspective:
Iorg has had 139 fewer at-bats during night games, yet he walked four more times during day games. To break that down even further, in day games Iorg has drawn a walk every 8.3 plate appearances. At night, he draws a walk about every 34 plate appearances.
Strikeouts during the day, one every 3.6 at-bats. At night, one every 3.2.
In day games Iorg averages a homer every 29 at-bats. At night, he hits a homer every 37 at-bats.
This is cherry picking, I know, but if Iorg were to play all his games during the day, his average and on-base percentage would both rank third in the Eastern League and his slugging percentage would place him in fifth.
As it stands, his .227 average is the seventh worse in the league, his .275 OBP places him four out of the basement, and the .364 he is slugging puts him in the bottom 20.
Somehow, inexplicably, Iorg has become a werewolf. The only problem is that he has it in reverse. Erie only plays 34 day games this year, so this doesn't really do much to help him, or the team.
So, why is this happening? Why is it that Iorg becomes a hitting machine with enhanced vision during the day and transforms back into the long-lost-cousin of Marion Mendoza once the sun falls?
Well, no one really knows. Last season in Lakeland the opposite was true. Iorg hit the ball well at night, but couldn't produce during the day.
Unfortunately, even Iorg himself is at a loss for an explanation. When he became aware of his splits last week he initially thought that maybe he had a depth-perception problem or suffered from night blindness, but he quickly dismissed the notion.
"I really don't know. At first I thought that something might have been going on, so I watched for it, but I see the ball fine at night," Iorg explained. "It's just one of those weird things. The lights are fine, it's nothing like that. I really don't know why it's happening."
This mystery also puzzles Brookens.
"If you find something out, let me know, because I have no idea," Brookens said. "I can tell you this, though: he won't ever be sitting during a day game."
The lights may have affected Clevlen's performance, but unfortunately it isn't the case here. If that were the case, at least Cale would have a cure for his Jeykll and Hyde act.
Erie will take two days off before heading to Binghamton on Thursday for a four game series to finish out the week.