Toledo's Austin Jackson reacts after striking out against Charlotte's Terry Doyle, who didn't allow a hit until the ninth inning.
Austin Jackson swung and missed. And then smiled.
No, he wasn't happy he didn't hit the ball during his first at-bat with the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field Thursday. But he swung without pain, and that was the best news that came out of Toledo's 6-1 loss to Charlotte, a game in which Knights starting pitcher Terry Doyle took a no-hitter into the ninth inning.
"I hurt myself swinging on a pitch where I was out front," Jackson said. "When I did that in this game, that obviously wasn't the best sign.
"But I was able to do it and didn't feel any pain, and that was a good sign."
Detroit placed Jackson on the disabled list with an abdominal strain on May 25, retroactive to May 17. On Thursday he was 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts while handling several plays in the outfield without problems.
"I felt good," Jackson said afterwards. "I didn't feel any pain, and it was good to get back out there and get back in the swing of things.
"It was tough to get my timing back. I wanted to see some pitches, and I didn't have any pain, so that was a good thing."
Jackson's original plan was to have three at-bats before leaving the game. After striking out in his third plate appearances in the bottom of the sixth, he stayed in the game and had one more at-bat.
"Once I got to the third at-bat and realized I wasn't feeling any pain, I wanted to get one more to get my timing and swing a little bit," Jackson said. "In the outfield, it was good to get some balls hit my way to put myself to the test."
Jackson will rejoin the Hens today when they finish their series with Charlotte with a 7 p.m. game, and the 25-year-old outfielder is scheduled to play the entire contest.
Is it more important for him to play without pain or to get his timing back?
"I think it's a little bit of both," he said. "I don't want to feel any pain, but getting my body in game shape is what I want to do."
Jackson wasn't the only Mud Hen who went hitless Thursday. The Hens' first hit in the game didn't come until the ninth, when Audy Ciriaco led off by lining a double down the left-field line.
"I had pretty much everything working," Charlotte's pitcher Doyle said. "I was getting ahead with the fastball, and then throwing the curveball and slider, hitting both sides of the plate."
Toledo starter Andy Oliver kept his team in the game until the fourth, when a mistake cost him three runs.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Oliver left a changeup high in the strike zone to the Knights' Drew Garcia, who lifted a high fly down the left-field line that stayed fair for Garcia's first home run of the season.
"Oliver pitched a good game," Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "He left a changeup up to a hitter with two runners on base, and I know Garcia -- he's a San Diego kid who isn't a .170 hitter."
Charlotte added three runs in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded double by Greg Golson, and that was too much for the Hens to overcome to avoid their fifth straight loss.
"We're in a funk right now," Nevin said. "You look for signs, for good swings. But their guy was tough."
NOTES: There never has been a no-hitter thrown at Fifth Third Field.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.
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