Erie MLN: Holding Steady to Start 2nd Half

Erie went into the All-Star break on a tear by sweeping the division leading Akron Aeros in four straight games. They failed to build on that momentum on the backside of the break, but they didn't lose any ground after splitting a four-game series in Binghamton.

Akron then came back to Erie, 53-42, 5.5 GB, on Monday to for a rematch of last week's series. It may have been a new day, but result remained the same as Erie soared past the Aeros for the eighth straight time, moving them into sole-possession of second place.

"We got some timely hits, drew some walks and the defense is outstanding. Santo has been playing out of his mind at third – everyone really, infield, outfield," Boesch said.

Erie only collected four hits – three of which came in the fourth inning-- but they were able to put six runs up on the board behind a pair of fourth inning home runs from Deik Scram and Boesch.

Then, in the seventh inning Erie was able to score three additional runs on one hit, two errors, a hit batter and two walks, including a team-high third with the bases loaded by Scram, off of Akron starter Josh Tomlin.

"We didn't put a lot of hits together, but we took advantage of their mistakes," manager Tom Brookens said.

Luis Marte got his first start since July 4 after being skipped in the rotation due to shoulder stiffness in his right arm, and was able to go 3 2/3 innings before being pulled. Marte was on a 75-pitch count, but was pulled after 62 in what appears to be a calculation mistake in the dugout.

"He felt nothing out of the shoulder and threw the ball lively, that's first and foremost in knowing that he's healthy," Brookens said. "I had him at 72 pitches, so that's why I pulled him. I was under the impression that it was 72. If it was 62 then that's my mistake."

By picking up the win, Erie once again moved to eleven games over .500, tying their highest total of the season. In four previous attempts to get to 12, they have failed.

"We feel pretty confident playing Akron – playing at home, more specifically—we have good fans here," Boesch said.

Erie is now 10-2 against Akron and 8-0 against them at home. For the season, they are 33-15 at home now.

Ryan Strieby returned for the first time in six games on Monday due to soreness in his surgically repaired left hand

Moving forward, it's unclear how the team will deal with this issue. They are hopeful that it is something that will just clear up, but at this point they plan on dealing with it on a day-to-day basis.

Strieby has now missed 18 games since June 1 due to this ailment.

Over the last week Casper Wells and Santo DeLeon have really stepped up to help gloss over the loss of Strieby.

Wells had been struggling since returning from the disabled list with a hammate injury of his own, but over the last ten days he's found his stroke again by batting .378 with two homers and 10 RBI. Wells is currently on a season-high eight game hitting streak.

De Leon has been the real wild card, though. Over the last five days he's hit .421 with three homers and five RBI. With his performance, De Leon captured his first Eastern League Player of the Week award, making it back-to-back weeks for Erie after Strieby won it last week.

"I worked a lot with Kevin Bradshaw in Lakeland. I took a lot of groundballs and played very well there. I came back here and had to do what I do," De Leon said. "I'm happy with my play here."

Since returning to Erie, he has been able to complie a .347/.385/.694 batting line to go along with three homers, 12 RBI, six doubles and three RBI.

Dirks's Spilt Personalities

When it was announced last week that Ryan Strieby wasn't going to be able to participate in the All-Star game, a rumor started flying around Jerry Uht Park.

No one knew where they had heard it, or where it originated from, but no one had questioned it and it was generally accepted as fact. Andy Dirks was taking going to fill the void created by Strieby at the All-Star game.

As it turns out, there wasn't an ounce of truth to this rumor, but it's interesting that no one even batted an eye when they heard it. During the post-game interviews, I asked Brookens if he had heard about a possible replacement for Strieby, and even he said that he had heard somewhere that it might be Dirks. Another beat writer also commented that he had heard it. With multiple sources coming to the same conclusion, Brookens felt so strongly that he called Dirks into his office and was going to tell him to pack his bags and get ready for Trenton. Luckily, Greg Gania, the head of Media Relations for the SeaWolves, was walking by and stopped him before doing so.

Dirks is having a solid season. His numbers, .276/.333/.376, are good and he's been solid defensively. He doesn't strikeout much – 39 times in 221 at-bats — and has stolen nine bases so far for the ‘Wolves.

The problem is, Dirks's numbers are deceptive.

Erie is notoriously friendly to hitters. They can slap balls off the 312 foot left field wall with relative ease, and when that isn't working for them, they can go the other way and bounce balls off the fence that is only 328 feet down the line. Most of the Erie hitters have home/road splits that favor Jerry Uht in one way or another, so this isn't a knock on Dirks. It's just that he's starting to get into that Matt Holliday-level where his splits indicate a problem.

Home (107 AB): .308/.361/.402, seven doubles, two homers, 13 RBI, 10 BB, 18 SO

Road (114 AB): .246/.306/.351, four doubles, one homer, five RBI, 10 BB, 21 SO

That's bad, but it gets worse. Check out his monthly splits since joining the SeaWolves:

May: .325/.345/.450, five doubles, one homer, nine RBI

June: .245/.318/.277, three doubles, zero hoemrs, 11 RBI

July: .255/.345/.447, three doubles, two homers, 8 RBI

He's starting to come back this month, but his all around production has suffered drastically since joining the team.

One of the problems with Dirks is that he doesn't take enough walks. I wouldn't go so far as to call him an all-or-nothing hitter. He has a good approach at the plate which has led him to only striking out 39 times against 20 walks. While that's not the greatest ratio in the world, it's solid for the Double-A level. I would, however, call him an extremely lucky hitter.

He managed to post a .330 average and .410 OBP at Lakeland earlier this year. Granted, he only had 103 at-bats, but over that span he only collected thirteen walks. This shows us that there's a discrepancy in those numbers, which is revealed in the .370 BABIP he posted with the Flying Tigers. That's pushing Ted Williams circa-1941 levels. So far his BABIP in Erie has been a little more realistic .324, which is why you are seeing a bit of a drop-off.

Notes:

- Zach Simons was sent up to Toeldo on Monday to fill the void created by Ryan Perry taking Joel Zumaya's spot in Detroit.

"Zach was the man for me. He was throwing the best so he went on up. Hopefully he doe up there what he went did here. He deserved it," Brookens said.

-Jared Gayhardt was sent up from Lakeland to take Simons place.

"Honestly, I don't know much about him. I know he pitched well in West Michigan and Lakeland. I don't even remember seeing him throw in spring training the whole time I was down there. It reminds me of the Oneota days where you work the extended spring out for two months and they send you a whole bunch of guys they drafted that you've never heard of," Brookens said.

-Josh Kite was DL'ed with a shoulder strain in the rotator area.

"He's made good progress and it's feeling better. At this point there won't be any scans that I know of," Brookens said.

Erie still has a roster move to make to fill his place and they expect to have some else in here within the week.


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