INDIANAPOLIS In the first series of the year against the Louisville Bats, the Toledo Mud Hens failed to get a quality pitching start in any of the four games. Their record for the series was a predictable 1-3. Entering the Indianapolis series, the Mud Hens pitching staff trailed the International League with a team ERA of 6.29 with league highs in walks (20) and hits (40).
Last night Toledo pitcher Ron Chiavacci may have missed the official definition of a quality start as he failed to go six innings, but his results were entirely acceptable as he held the Indians to a single run over five innings in a 6-2 win.
Chiavacci worked quickly over his five innings. More importantly, he stayed ahead of the hitters, throwing first-pitch strikes to 12 of the first 13 batters he faced.
That s key, Chiavacci said. Today I knew I had about 60 pitches to work with and had to get either early contact or ahead in the zone.
Mr. Leyland [Tigers manager Jim] wants first-pitch strikes and no two-ball counts.
The six-foot right-hander supplemented control of his fastball with a new pitch in holding the Indians to five hits.
For the most part I was in and out with my fastball and down in the zone. But I haven t thrown a sinker in two years and the other day I was working with it on flat ground and it just came natural to me.
I threw like 70 percent strikes with it today and both of the double-play ground balls were sinkers.
Chiavacci appeared in 17 games for Indianapolis in 2006, posting a record of 4-4 with a 4.71 ERA. He didn t deny that a win against Indianapolis was especially rewarding.
It s a big satisfaction for me, being here for two years and not getting to pitch. Coming back here and proving I can pitch means the world to me.
The Hens jumped on the Indians quickly, scoring two runs in the first inning.
Kevin Hooper led off with a walk and then moved to third on a double by Chris Shelton. Both runners scored on a double to left by Timo Perez.
In the third inning the Hens scored two more runs.
Hooper and Shelton were hit by consecutive pitches and Indians starter John Van Benschoten filled the bases with a walk.
Mike Hessman drew another walk to score Hooper to reload the bases with none out.
After a strikeout and a fielder s choice grounder, Brent Clevelen coaxed another RBI walk from Van Benschoten, but Ramon Santiago flied out to strand three base runners.