Erie MLN: SeaWolves Starting to Believe

There's a mystical quality about special, championship teams. It's not something that is really tangible, but it exists, and you can feel the aura about them.

Their seasons aren't bereft of calamity or adversity, every team endures that, but instead of becoming crestfallen and succumbing to disaster when it strikes, they band together and overcome it. The Erie SeaWolves are starting to believe they've captured that special something with this year's team.

Despite having only 12 of the 23 names remaining from their opening day roster (the SeaWolves have been playing a man down since Josh Kite hit the disabled list on July 20), Erie has improved to 57-43 –placing them 14 games over .500, their highest water mark of the year—and are only three games back of Akron heading into a four game series against them on Monday.

"I don't think you really need anyone to step up when you are beating teams like that," manager Tom Brookens said after Erie's 16-3 shellacking of Binghamton on Friday. "Everyone's carrying their weight. Betram and Bourquin have really played well. Boesch –Boesch has really stepped his play up- they're all playing really good baseball. We've gotten great pitching. We have a good team here."

Brennan Boesch thinks it's more than that, though. He isn't afraid to say that he's already thinking about taking a champagne bath with his 23 teammates when the season's over.

"I've played on a championship team in West Michigan for Tom. We got some of the same guys that have been through that and know what it takes. I can sense the same camaraderie and togetherness that it takes in the clubhouse," Boesch said. "We literary have every guy in the clubhouse pulling for each other. Top to bottom, pitching, defense, and hitting we can piece that all together and win. We have a goal, and that's winning a championship."

That dream could very well become a reality after the month the SeaWolves just pieced together. Heading into the final days of July with a 16-7 record for the month, including a 7-1 record over division leading Akron, Erie has placed themselves in a solid position to advance to the playoffs, if not win the Southern Division.

They are two games up on the Reading Phils for the wild card berth in the Southern Division, who are in the midst of an 11-14 skid after a recent 24-16 run.

With Boesch capturing the Eastern League player of the week award on Monday, marking the third time in as many weeks that a SeaWolf has won the honors, the team is firing on all cylinders.

"I've never played on a team like this, ever. I really love these guys," Boesch said. "We have so many talented players in the locker room that if I'm not hitting, someone else will get it done."

It will have to stay that way if they want to get to make that goal a reality, especially after suffering the loss of Ryan Strieby to the disabled list earlier this week.

Strieby will head to Baltimore this week to get a second opinion on his wrist from Dr. Timothy Graham.

It was revealed that Strieby had developed bone spurs in the area where his hamate was removed when he saw a specialist in New York during an earlier stint on the disabled list.

A few higher ups in the organization have stated that they are beginning to worry about the possibility of keeping Strieby on the field down the stretch and, depending on what Dr. Graham recommends, there is a possibility that he could be shut down so that he is ready for winter ball.

"The organization wants to get me through the season, so we're going to do whatever we can do to do that. During the offseason, if I do have something done on it, it won't be that long to come back from it. Right now we're trying to get through the season," Strieby said.

Strieby has been battling pain in his wrist all season and was placed on the disabled list for the second time on Wednesday. The team has tried to manage it on the fly by allowing him to take days off whenever he needed too but they decided to shut him down after Strieby was forced to miss six out of seven games in a recent stretch.

Strieby has now missed 24 games since early June.

"I'm still optimistic that I'll be able to come back and play, but only time will tell."

Lines of the week:

Alex Avila: 3-for-5, three homers, seven RBI

Avila almost hit for the home run cycle on Friday, hitting a one-run, two-run, and three run homer, with one going to each right, left, and center field. Behind Avila's offensive outpour, Erie was able to beat Binghamton 16-3.

"Most guys go their whole career and don't have a game like he had tonight," Brookens said. Coming into the game, Avila had gone hitless in three straight games, his longest drought of the season, and was 1-for-5 in his previous five games.

"Before the game a lot of guys were bugging me because that's the longest I've went without a hit. Tonight was first for me, it was a good way to get out of a little slump," Avila said. "I had been so consistent all year, I felt like I was getting out of my game and not having quality at-bats. I simplified things a little bit. I was chasing balls that I wouldn't chase."

Thad Webber: 7 2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 SO, 2 BB, 3 ER

After using all of his relief pitchers except for Robbie Weinhardt, Brookens joked after the game that Webber was going to have to bring his best stuff and last nine innings to save his bullpen from having to throw on back-to-back days. Webber didn't last nine, but he did bring his best stuff. He struggled a little bit in the seventh, surrendering a home run to Ike Davis and another pair of runs, but he recovered and went deep enough into the game so that Brookens could get out of there by only using Weindhardt in relief. Webber set a season-high in strikeouts and innings pitched in his effort.

"I wasn't sure where I was at pitchcount wise, but when I went out there in the eighth I thought I might be able to go the whole way," Webber said.

Erie will stay in Akron until Thursday and then head back home to host Reading in a three game series starting on Friday.

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