Mud Hens leadoff batter Gustavo Nunez strikes out to open the first inning. The Hens struck out seven times and ended the game with a team batting average of .212. They lost 4-1 to the Charlotte Knights.
The struggles of the Mud Hens’ offense continued Sunday in a 4-1 loss to Charlotte at Fifth Third Field, prompting a short and sweet — not to mention accurate — analysis from manager Phil Nevin.
“You can just push ‘play’ on your recorder and replay what I said [Saturday],” Nevin said. “That’s all you need to know.”
On Saturday the complaints centered on Toledo hitters surrendering at-bats by swinging early, not working counts, and making quick outs. Little changed in that regard Sunday as the Hens lost for the third game in a row and 11th time in the last 13 contests.
Knights’ starter Jason Berken needed just 78 pitches to cover the first seven innings, allowing just three baserunners on a single and two walks. The Mud Hens finally got to Berken in the eighth, loading the bases with three singles and scoring one run on Ramon Cabrera’s base hit up the middle.
But Argenis Diaz was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Cabrera’s hit, ending the threat.
Toledo’s lack of offense made a loser of starter Shawn Hill, who fell to 0-3 despite holding Charlotte in check for most of the game.
“You try not to [let it affect you],” Hill said of the struggles on offense. “You know you have to bear down and keep as many runs off the board as possible.
“If you have a powerhouse offense, you can afford to be a little more aggressive. You know that if you give up a run or two, it’s OK because your team is going to score a lot of runs.
“In our situation right now, we know we’re struggling to score runs. You just try to keep your team in the game.”
Hill also knew that the Mud Hens’ bullpen had been stretched by Saturday’s 13-inning loss, which made Nevin appreciate the right-hander’s complete-game performance even more.
“That was a huge outing,” Nevin said of Hill’s effort. “After Saturday night our bullpen was taxed. We had guys available, but each guy had an asterisk — and I wanted to avoid using them.
“So for Shawn to go out and give us nine was great. He deserved a better fate.”
Hill labored in the early innings, giving up a run in the second on a double by Seth Loman and a two-out single by Jim Gallagher, then pitching around two Charlotte hits in the third.
In the middle innings, Hill retired 10 of 11 batters at one point, a dramatic turnaround after giving up 18 hits and 12 runs in just 10 innings in his last two starts.
“The last two starts, something went haywire mechanically,” he said. “The last five days I’ve gone back to square one, just trying to figure out what was happening.
“The first couple of innings I was trying to translate what I had done [on the side] into a game situation, and as I started to get more reps … I was able to differentiate what was right and what was wrong — and repeat what was right.”
Charlotte broke the game open with a two-run seventh. Josh Bell singled, then moved to second on a one-out walk to Gallagher before both runners scored on a double into the left-field corner off the bat of Drew Garcia.
“It wasn’t a bad pitch; it was down in the outer third,” Hill said of Garcia’s hit. “And he hit it off the end of the bat.
“If he would have driven it into the corner, you tip your hat because it’s a good piece of hitting. But he flared it out there. I’m not a strikeout guy, so I’m going to give up those kinds of hits.
“If anything, I would have liked to have had the walk the hitter before back. I got tentative with Gallagher and didn’t attack the zone.”
Gallagher closed the scoring with a home run to right in the ninth.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com,419-724-6481 or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.