Just seven short days ago, the ‘Wolves, 58-49, 9.0 GB, were talking about taking a champagne bath together at the end of the season. Most of the guys had all but ordered their goggles. Now they are just hoping to survive down the stretch.
There wasn't just one area you could pinpoint and say, ‘this is why they are struggling'. It was the offense and the pitching; it was their lack of production with runners in scoring position; it was the bullpen; it was the injuries. The easiest way to put it would be by saying that everything has finally caught up with them.
It was only a matter of time. Erie couldn't be expected to continue to stave off the injuries and transactions that has depleted their roster to the point that it has nearly as many players that started the season in Lakeland as it does those that made their 2009 debut in Erie.
This week saw starting pitcher Luis Marte and relievers Cody Satterwhite and Josh Kite all hit the shelf with shoulder injuries. Kite was eventually replaced with Kris Regas, but throughout the week manager Tom Brookens was forced to manage a bullpen that was two arms short.
"Right now, with the runs coming as tough as they are, it magnifies your pitching a little bit," Brookens said. "With the depleted bullpen it definitely influences how you handle your pitchers. You have to max your guys out a little bit and try to squeeze the extra inning out of them. Actually a few guys have went longer than what we thought they'd give us."
Kite was finally activated from the disabled list prior to Sunday's game, but the ‘Wolves remain a man short until Satterwhite is available to return. His health status remains day-to-day and it is believed that he should be ready to go by mid-week.
"To get Kite back in the bullpen, it gives us another lefty. The starters don't necessarily go into the game thinking they have to get deep into it, but to have him back and add to the depth is real big," pitcher Pat Stanley said. With the extra workload, the pitching staff has posted a collective 7.74 ERA over the last week, well off their season average of 4.00.
The hitting hasn't been much better. As a group, the team only managed to hit a paltry .203 over the six game skid. They were also 9-for-39 with runners in scoring position before Sunday's 3-1 win over Reading.
One of the only bright spots for Erie was Brennan Boesch, who managed to hit .286 with a pair of homers and six RBIs while the rest of the roster was floundering.
Boesch, who was named the Eastern League's player of the week last Monday, put Erie in a position to win against the highly touted Kyle Drabek on Saturday. Drabek (8-1, 3.42 ERA), who was the deal breaker in a trade that would have sent Toronto's Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, gave up a pair of home runs to Boesch (who now has a league leading 23) through the first three innings on Saturday, but Reading would hold on for the win after Erie failed to add onto their lead in later innings.
"It felt good to come out and swing the a big bat early –not because of the hype around him- but we weren't able to get much going after that, so it didn't really matter," Boesch said. "To be honest, I treated it like any other day."
It was the first time that Drabek had taken the mound with the assurance that he was going to remain a member of the Philadelphia Phillies' organization.
He stated that he didn't really allow it to affect his mental state or performance on the mound, but was happy to know that he was going to remain a Phillie.
"I talked to my dad (former major leaguer Doug Drabek) about it and he told me not to think about it and just out and pitch. It feels really good (to know how much they think of me). I wanted to stay here, I wanted to be here, but I didn't know I would be, so I'm happy," Drabek said.
"When you get out on the mound you don't really think about the other stuff. I'm kind of able to just forget about it when I'm on the mound and just concentrate on pitching."
Erie will try to reverse their fortunes this week against two teams they have yet to see because of the uneven scheduling that the Eastern League features.
First, they will try their luck in a three game set against New Britain (53-55, second in the Northern Division) and then again against Connecticut (63-45, first in the Northern Division).
"I think that's good for us. They don't know much about us. I think the best thing is to just go right after them. We've done really well at home and hopefully we can build on the win," Stanley said.