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Published: Sunday, 5/29/2011

Road warriors

Hens best away from home so far

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens have been met with nothing but success ever since they started playing games at Fifth Third Field in 2002.

Toledo has a .563 winning percentage at home since the team moved to Fifth Third Field, and last year's 33-38 record marked the first time the Hens had a losing home record for a season in the ballpark's history.

So how do you explain this year's team having a 7-17 record at home?

"We've just played better baseball in stretches, and we've happened to be on the road when we've played well," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. "And we just have been home at the times where we haven't played well.

"I think if we put a few wins together at home, we'll get a better feeling at home. I'm not worried about it -- this is a good team, and I think we'll continue to play well. We just haven't played well at home."

The Mud Hens' home game against Durham on Monday was postponed by rain following a two-hour delay.

The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Sunday, with the first game starting at 5 p.m.

Toledo hopes that it can win twice Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak at home. The Hens have the fewest home wins and the worst home winning percentage (.291) in the International League.

It's not hard to figure out why Toledo has struggled at home.

On offense the Mud Hens are hitting .282 on the road and have scored 125 runs in 25 games (5 per game); at home the numbers are a .250 batting average and 72 runs scored in 24 contests (3 per contest).

The pitching numbers aren't as disparate. The team's ERA is 4.26 on the road and 4.44 at home, although the team has made more errors at home (23 in 24 games) than on the road (18 in 25 games).

What gives the Mud Hens hope for a home turnaround is the team's success on the road. Toledo has a 15-10 record away from Fifth Third Field, and only three IL teams have more road victories.

The Hens went 7-1 and 5-3 on their last two road trips, and Nevin said the reasons for the team's success on the road weren't hard to explain.

"We just did everything well," he said following the last road trip. "We scored early, we had a lot of two-out RBIs, we ran the bases well.

"And we played defense well and we pitched well. When you go on a good run, that's usually the case."

NOTE: The starters for the Mud Hens Sunday will be Duane Below, Saturday's scheduled starter, in game one and Brayan Villareal in the second contest. Durham will throw Edgar Gonzalez in the first game and Alex Cobb in the second.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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