Slumps are common in any sport, but a dry start for a Toledo Mud Hen this season has been a little more noticeable. The Hens' promising beginning has allowed their coaches to already start demanding more fine-tuning.
The Hens won again last night at Fifth Third Field 6-4 to bring their record to 8-4. But the victory was about a few players breaking out of their offensive slumps.
In Toledo's defeat of Charlotte, second basemen Ryan Raburn singled and tripled, and first basemen Mike Hessman broke out of an 0-for-17 hitless streak in the Hens' three-run sixth inning. Both players had been hitting under .200 to start the season.
"We did a much better job offensively," Hens manager Larry Parrish said.
Besides Raburn's offensive progress, he also had two backhand snags in the eighth to end the inning after the Knights' Pedro Lopez homered to cut the Hens' lead to one.
"He's had a lot of work this week," Parrish said. "You can ask the groundskeeper, because he's had to deal with us being on the field every day early."
A 2001 draft pick for the Tigers, Raburn jumped from Double-A Erie (Pa.) to Detroit for 12 games last season, but this is his first time in Toledo.
"I hadn't been feeling so comfortable out there and just tried to go out there and have a good time," Raburn said. "Same with hitting, you can't put too much pressure on yourself."
Before his single, Hessman had a strong shot to the shortstop in the fourth inning. This is his fourth year at the Triple-A level.
"He's a guy that we're counting on heavily, and he's been off to a slow start," Parrish said. "It's good to see him sort of break out of it tonight. Now, he can get cranked up, get started."
Both team's starting pitchers began with throwing decent stuff. Toledo's Kenny Baugh (2-0, 2.81 ERA) pitched six innings and ended with four strikeouts and one walk.
Charlotte (1-11) took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when with one out, Jorge Toca hit a home run to left with Joe Borchard on second. Baugh allowed no one else on base in the inning, though.
The Knights' Brandon McCarthy (0-2, 4.76) looked good initially, but just like when the Hens faced McCarthy last week, they eventually got to him. Jack Hannahan's double scored Raburn in the fifth, and the Hens used a sacrifice bunt and sac fly to score Hannahan. In the sixth, Byron Gettis gave the Hens the lead with a single, scoring Chris Shelton. Toledo then loaded the bases and scored two more runs on another Hannahan hit.
The Knights got one run in each of the seventh and eighth innings. The Hens answered in the bottom half of the eighth with another run; Hannahan's double brought Raburn in. Hannahan led the Hens' offense, going 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs. He had started the season 1-for-17 but has flourished since.
"Your first 100 at-bats and your last 100 at-bats are pretty important, but we've only had 25 or so at-bats," said Gettis, the Hens' left fielder. "When we come up to 50 at-bats, and get over that hump, you're going to see the real Hens."
The Knights challenged in the ninth, getting two runners on with no outs. Closer Jason Karnuth got Jamie Burke to hit into a double play and forced another grounder to get his third save.
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