It took 35 games to do it, but the Mud Hens' pitching staff finally hung a goose egg on an International League foe last night.
Mark Johnson (3-4) blanked the Pawtucket Red Sox for seven innings and reliever Kris Keller took it from there as Toledo won 4-0 at Skeldon Stadium.
It was the second consecutive victory for the Hens (14-21) and their fifth in seven games, while Pawtucket (14-21) dropped its fifth straight game.
Catcher Carlos Mendez staked the Hens to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, making Pawtucket starter Rafael Roque pay for early control problems.
After Roque (4-1) issued a one-out pass to Jermaine Allensworth and a two-out walk to Tom Evans, Mendez deposited a pitch from the left-hander over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, his fourth of the season.
“That was nice because I've been struggling lately,” said Mendez, who was glad to provide some support for his battery mates.
Johnson made the lead stand, blanking the Red Sox on three hits before exiting after the seventh inning. He loaded the bases in the seventh after retiring the first two batters, sandwiching two hit batsmen around an infield single by Pawtucket DH Garry Maddox.
But Johnson struck out Pawtucket leadoff hitter Jim Chamblee to hold the shutout.
“It was definitely one of my best starts,” Johnson said. “Maybe my first one in Louisville (8-1 Hens victory April 9) was better, but the outcome of this one was definitely the best.
“I tried to stay ahead of the hitters and, when I did get behind, I let them put the ball in play and relied on the defense. As a staff, we strive to keep the team in the game and give our hitters a chance to score some runs and get on a roll.”
Mud Hens pitchers have been doing just that lately, giving up three runs or less in eight of the past nine games.
After his first-inning trouble, Roque settled down and kept Toledo scoreless over the next five innings on one hit, a single by Evans in the sixth.
The Hens touched Roque for back-to-back singles from Jarrod Patterson and Pedro Santana with one out in the seventh and, after Roque retired Allensworth on a flyout, Randall Simon delivered some insurance on a wild, tomahawk chop of a swing.
Roque's 1-2 pitch to Simon was high and outside, but the hard-swinging lefty, who leads to IL in hitting at .349, reached out and pulled the ball hard to right-center for a single to score Patterson and give the Hens a 4-0 lead.
“I'm a high-ball hitter,” Simon said. “I like them up there.”
Keller, whose only mistake in the final two innings was a one-out walk to Jon Shave in the eighth, got five of the last six outs on strikeouts, including three in the ninth.
NOTE: Shortstop Giomar Guevara was hit on the right index finger on a bad hop grounder from Angelo Encarnacion and was forced to leave the game. The brusied finger was not broken and Guevara's status is day-to-day.