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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2012

Mud Hens' struggles on offense continue in home loss to Norfolk

Brown pitches well but gets no run support

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASERThe Mud Hens' Cale Iorg tosses his bat and removes his batting helmet after striking out to end the fifth inning on Monday. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASERThe Mud Hens' Cale Iorg tosses his bat and removes his batting helmet after striking out to end the fifth inning on Monday.
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The Mud Hens held a closed-door meeting following the team's 4-1 loss to Norfolk at Fifth Third Field Monday afternoon.

While the topic of conversation was not officially disclosed -- "Stuff that takes place in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said -- it wasn't hard to figure out the talking points.

A lack of offense has been a key reason for the Hens' recent tailspin, which has seen the team lose six in a row and nine of its last 10.

"It's stating the obvious," pitcher Brooks Brown said. "We haven't played good baseball lately, and everybody knows it.

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"We're not panicking. If we do what we can do, things will turn around."

One bit of good news for the Hens Monday was the start by Brown, who took the place of Casey Crosby. Brown allowed just seven hits and didn't walk a batter in 6⅓ innings while fanning six in one of his best starts this season.

"I just stuck with my game plan, which was to get ahead and stay out of three-ball counts," said Brown, who reached a three-ball count only once while facing 27 Tides hitters. "That's been my goal, and it's something I have struggled with.

"[Avoiding three-ball counts] cuts down on the pitches you throw, and you're able to get ahead of hitters and make pitches."

While Norfolk advanced a runner to third base in three of Brown's first four innings, the right-hander gave up just one run until the seventh.

"He was outstanding," Nevin said of Brown. "When he locates his pitches, he has such good movement on the ball. His cutter and his sinker were working well, and he had good life on his fastball.

"To me that was his best pitching performance this season. Not because of the results, but because he did some good things with all of his pitches."

Catcher Rob Brantly agreed, adding, "He's obviously got good stuff as far as velocity goes, and he's got some well-developed off-speed pitches. He commanded the zone really well.

"He deserved to win this game. Hopefully next time we can give him more run support."

With the game tied at 1 in the seventh, Brown gave up an infield single to L.J. Hoes, a hit-and-run single by Blake Davis that pushed Hoes to third, and a seeing-eye single up the middle by Caleb Joseph that scored the go-ahead run.

And that, along with a two-run homer by Bill Hall in the eighth, was too much for the Mud Hen offense to overcome.

Toledo finished with just six hits and scored its lone run in the sixth when Brent Dlugach led off with a walk and eventually scored on a two-out double by Brantly.

The most frustrating inning for the Hens was the seventh, when they loaded the bases with nobody out. Yet Toledo failed to score when Cale Iorg struck out and Dlugach hit into a double play.

"Our pitchers have been great," Nevin said. "But for them to have to go out every day with the feeling that they can't give up a run because it might mean a loss for them is really tough."

Brown said the pitchers cannot let the team's offensive struggles affect their performance.

"Even if we score 10 runs in an inning, my job is to put up a zero," he said. "We have some sticks on this team, and we'll start swinging it soon."

NOTES: Nevin said Crosby felt fine and would not miss another start. Crosby will return to the rotation Saturday at Columbus. … After Monday's game, Norfolk's Miguel Tejada asked for his release. The American League's MVP in 2002, the 38-year-old Tejada was 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored in the contest. He hit .259 with no homers and 18 RBIs in 36 games with the Tides. … The Mud Hens had hoped to activate DH John Lindsey for Monday's game, but the team still is waiting for paperwork from his former team, Laguna of the Mexican League. … Monday's crowd of 10,500 was the Hens' 12th sellout this season and fourth in as many days.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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