While the Mud Hens have nearly been eliminated from the playoffs, Andy Oliver has pitched like a man on a mission.
Tuesday night he allowed just five hits and one earned run in 6 2/3 innings to pitch Toledo to a 7-3 win over Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
Oliver was sent to the Mud Hens from Detroit on July 21 and entered Tuesday night's game with a 1-3 record and 3.67 ERA. But Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager said the 22-year-old lefty's ERA was a better reflection of how he has pitched in Toledo.
"He looks like a guy with an agenda," Sager said. "He wants to compete and help us win, but he also understands the development process.
"The thing I've been most pleased with is his ability to focus and work. He came here with an idea of what he needed to work on, and he rolled his sleeves up and started to work."
Oliver, a native of Vermilion, Ohio, who was taken in the second round of last year's draft, began this season with Double-A Erie, where he went 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starters.
The southpaw was promoted to Detroit on June 25 but struggled with the Tigers, losing four of his five starts and posting a 7.36 ERA before his demotion to Toledo.
"When he came down here, he was ready to work," Sager said. "He learned some things in the big leagues.
"For him, it starts with fastball command. But he has worked on secondary pitches, and I think in the last two or three starts that work has started to show up."
The Clippers scored an unearned run in the second off Oliver when leadoff hitter Jared Goedert reached on an error, then came home on a double by Wes Hodges. But Oliver stranded Hodges at second by fanning Josh Rodriguez and Damaso Espino.
"What has come along is some depth to his slider and trust in his change-up," Sager said. "Both pitches have showed up, and as a result in his last few starts he has had three good pitches."
Oliver held the Clippers in check until the seventh when Jordan Brown singled, moved to third on a double by Rodriguez, and scored on Espino's groundout. The lefty finished with 10 strikeouts, tying his career high set April 29 while he was with Erie.
"I thought he threw better in his last game because he had a better breaking ball," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "He used his fastball more in this game."
Things got hairy in the ninth as Columbus scored a run on an Argenis Reyes single and left the bases loaded on a flyout to deep center, but Toledo's five-run second proved enough cushion to insure the Hens' third win in four days against the Clippers.
Ben Guez started that second-inning rally with a single, and he moved to second on Mike Bertram's single. Chris White then rolled a bunt down the third-base line; instead of letting it roll foul, Columbus third baseman Goedert picked it up and threw it to first.
But the ball bounced past first baseman Hodges down the right-field line, scoring Guez and sending Bertram and White to third and second, respectively.
Max St-Pierre's groundout scored Bertram, and Shawn Roof was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and third. Justin Henry hit a sacrifice fly that plated White, and Cale Iorg hit his first Triple-A home run to cap the rally.
"You usually win the game with one big inning, and that's what happened here," Parrish said. "We got the guys over, then got them in. We did the little things on offense to score runs."
NOTES: The Mud Hens have added RHP Thad Weber to the roster. Weber, who was 9-12 with a 4.08 ERA for Double-A Erie, is scheduled to start for Toledo
Thursday at Indianapolis.
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