If Mud Hens starter Thad Weber only could avoid the second inning, well, imagine the possibilities.
That's all Weber could do Thursday after giving up three second-inning runs in Toledo's 4-1 loss to Rochester at Fifth Third Field.
After Weber collected three outs on just six pitches in the first, the Red Wings sent eight batters to the plate in the second and had five hits. After that the right-hander allowed just three hits and a walk and held the Wings scoreless.
"That's really been the last two outings -- it's been an easy first inning, and then for some reason I can't get through a clean second," Weber said, remembering his July 26 start in Columbus where he gave up seven runs while getting just two outs in the second.
"I got ground balls for the most part, but some of them just snuck through. And things just rolled from there. Bottom line, I have to do a better job of controlling that inning and not let it get to where it did."
The second started with Rochester's Chris Parmelee slamming his 10th home run of the season. Former Hen Clete Thomas beat out a grounder behind second for a single and stole second, but Weber got the next two outs before disaster struck.
Ray Chang capped an eight-pitch at-bat with a single to right that moved Thomas to third. Rene Rivera ground a ball up the middle that got into center for a single that scored Thomas and sent Chang to second.
Then Tsuyoshi Nishioka worked Weber for seven pitches before hitting a grounder up the middle that Hens second baseman Matt Young stopped, but threw wildly to first and Chang scored.
"I just have to make the pitches to get us out of the inning there," said Weber, who threw 39 pitches in the second. "The home run, well, I've given up my share of solo home runs. But after that I have to get outs, and I have to do it quicker.
"Give them credit for grinding out at-bats, but I have to make quality pitches in a more efficient way."
Weber's second-inning struggles continue a season-long trend for the 27-year-old. In the second inning this season Weber has surrendered 30 hits in 17 innings that have produced 20 earned runs, an opponents' batting average of .380 and a 10.59 ERA. Outside of the second Weber has given up just 72 hits in 89⅔ innings for a .220 opponents' batting average and has a 2.91 ERA.
Credit Weber for bouncing back after the rough second and holding the Wings scoreless, pitching out of a two-on, none-out jam in the second and stranding seven runners on base in six innings.
But those three runs were too much for the Mud Hens offense to overcome as Rochester starter Liam Hendriks and reliever Kyle Waldrop allowed just five hits and one walk.
"Outside of the leadoff doubles by Danny [Worth] and Andy [Dirks] in the seventh, there wasn't too much offense to speak of," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. "Hendriks did the same thing he did last time [he faced us] -- threw strikes, and late in the game he was able to dial it up a little more with a fastball that had some movement."
A double play ruined a potential Toledo rally in the second, and the Hens didn't threaten again until the hits by Worth and Dirks to open the seventh. John Lindsey hit a hard grounder up the middle that bounced off Hendriks directly to Chang at third, who threw Lindsey out at first.
With Dirks at third and the infield back, Danny Dorn struck out and Jerad Head fanned to end the threat.
"Hendriks went after those guys with fastballs that had movement," Nevin said. "They both took some good swings, but they just didn't get him."
Rochester's Evan Bigley homered off Jose Ortega in the eighth to close the scoring.
NOTE: The crowd of 9,690 was the Mud Hens' 22nd sellout this season and ninth straight home sellout.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.