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Published: 6/12/2011

MUD HENS NOTEBOOK

Positives found from 14-inning loss

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Yes, there were plenty of negatives following the Mud Hens’ 14-inning loss to Gwinnett at Fifth Third Field Friday night.

The loss completed a four-game sweep by the Braves and dropped the Hens’ home record to 8-22, the worst in the International League.

Yet, Toledo manager Phil Nevin was quick to point out there also are positives.

“After the first inning, [Toledo starter Duane] Below threw great,” Nevin said. “The thing he did best was be efficient with his pitches. He threw [26] pitches in the first inning, so to get through eight innings was pretty incredible.

“That was an impressive outing for Duane — and he’s had a lot of them this year.”

Nevin also got good work out of the bullpen, which didn’t give Gwinnett many opportunities until the Braves scored in the 14th.

“It was a game where a lot of players — on both sides — were pressing to get the big hit to win the game,” he said. “And the pitchers took advantage of it.”

While the loss dropped the Hens to 4-16 at home since May, Nevin said there weren’t many variables he could point to as the reason for his team’s struggles.

“The first inning has been a killer for us — we’ve been getting behind a lot,” he said. “But these guys have been playing hard. And they go about their business the right way.”

This season is shaping up to be Toledo’s worst home season since Fifth Third Field opened in 2002. The Hens entered their 10th season at Fifth Third Field with a 363-282 record at home, good for a .563 winning percentage.

In fact, last season’s 33-38 home record marked the first season the Mud Hens had a losing record at Fifth Third Field.

To put this season’s poor home record in perspective, the Mud Hens’ best home record for a season was a 46-26 mark set in that inaugural season of 2002 and tied in 2005 and ‘07. The 2006 squad nearly matched that mark, finishing 45-27.

Only two teams in professional baseball have a home record as bad as the Hens: the Potomac, Va., Nationals of the Hi-A Carolina League and the Clinton Lumberkings of the Lo-A Midwest League.

The Lumberkings and Hens have identical 8-22 home records, but Potomac’s 7-16 record deserves an asterisk: the Nationals have played seven fewer home games than Toledo and have a .304 winning percentage compared to the Hens’ .267 mark.

Instead of worrying about what has happened, Nevin said he tries to focus his club on what’s ahead.

“This is a new day,” he said. “The sun comes up, and you play another ball game, and it’s 0-0 again.

“If you start worrying about last night or what your numbers are, it’s going to start snowballing.”

THE RAINY SEASON: Here’s a statistic you won’t see every day — and it’s a stat that shows just how wet the first two months of the 2011 season have been.

The Mud Hens grounds crew keeps a statistic called “tarp pulls.” Simply put, every time the crew puts the tarp on the field and then removes it, a “pull” is added to the total.

Entering Saturday’s game, the grounds crew had executed 24 “pulls” this season, which hasn’t reached the half-way point. The single-season record here is 44, set two years ago.

CAST YOUR VOTE: Fans can vote for the players they want to see in the 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday, July 13.

Only one Mud Hen ranks among the International League leaders through voting of June 9 as LHP Adam Wilk — who is currently with the Tigers — is second among starting pitchers. Three Mud Hens rank third at their position: Ryan Strieby at first base, Will Rhymes at second, and Cale Iorg at shortstop.

Scott Thorman ranks fifth among DHs, while Ben Guez is seventh among outfielders, and LHP Matt Hoffman stands 10th among relievers.

Online voting, which is only one portion of a process that also includes a vote on managers, front office personnel, and media, ends June 24. Links to vote on-line are at www.mudhens.com and www.ilbaseball.com.

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



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