There's no place like home for Shane Loux.
The 23-year-old right-hander tossed a compete-game, three-hit shutout against the top hitting club in the International League last night as the Mud Hens beat Ottawa 5-0.
The victory was the league-leading seventh of the season for Loux and improved his record in games at Fifth Third Field this year to 5-0.
“I love pitching here,'' Loux said. “It's nice to see people you know at the ballpark every day, and the fans here make it special - they cheer you on, and they are standing up in the last inning. I love pitching here at home. If I could, I'd have every start here.''
Of course, it's easy for Loux to love pitching at Fifth Third Field when you consider his numbers here: an opponent's batting average of .196, a home ERA of 0.63, and just 25 baserunners allowed in 282/3 innings.
Among the 5,043 spectators at the ballpark watching Loux pitch last night were Tiger manager Alan Trammell, pitching coach Bob Cluck, and Scott Reid, Detroit's vice-president of player personnel. And Loux knew that.
“Before I took the field [pitching coach Jeff] Jones told me,'' Loux said. “He told me to relax, go out there and don't look up in the stands. That didn't work.''
But Loux overcame whatever nerves he might have felt to stifle the Lynx, allowing just one batter to reach second base. He didn't allow a hit after Rob Sasser's one-out single in the third, retiring 18 of the last 22 batters in a 103-pitch effort that included 69 strikes.
“It felt as if he [Loux] was in total command the whole ball game,'' said Hens manager Larry Parrish. “The way he was pitching, we knew we didn't have to score many [runs]. When we got ahead, it was like, `OK, we're going to win this one.'''
The strong effort by Loux gave the scuffling Hen offense time to muster two rallies in the middle of the contest to earn the team's second win in the last six contests. Toledo entered the game with a .215 batting average with runners in scoring position, but went three-for-six with a sacrifice fly and a walk in those situations against Ottawa starter Rafael Pina.
Hiram Bocachica gave some credit to a hitter's meeting called by Hens hitting coach Leon “Bull'' Durham.
“Bull said the way we approached our at-bats the last couple of days wasn't the right way,'' Bocachica said. “Tonight we made a little bit of an adjustment against their guy, who is the same kind of pitcher as the guy Tuesday [John Stephens]. If you chased bad pitches, he was going to get you out. But if you were patient you were going to get something [good to hit].''
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when the Hens pushed across a single run. Danny Klassen led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Bocachica, then took third when two outfielders collided trying to catch a double off the bat of A.J. Hinch.
The Lynx intentionally walked Mike Peeples to load the bases, but Cody Ross - who fell behind in the count 0-2 - lifted a sacrifice fly to center.
The Hens broke open the game with four runs in the sixth. Warren Morris led off with a triple to center, then came home when Ernie Young singled through a drawn-in infield. Wendell Magee, Jr., singled Young to second, but Young was forced at third on a sacrifice attempt by Klassen.
That set the stage for Bocachica, who snapped an 0-for-8 drought by drilling a shot off the left-field foul pole for his fourth home run of the season.
“The way I've been swinging the bat lately has been embarrassing,'' Bocachica said. “I just wanted to relax at the plate because I knew I could play better than I had.''