THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Duane Below has spent most of this season succeeding in Detroit.
So the left-hander from nearby Britton, Mich., has been frustrated by his struggles since being sent to the Mud Hens on Aug. 14.
"I know what I'm capable of doing," Below said Tuesday after being tagged with the loss in the Hens' 5-0 defeat at the hands of Indianapolis. "When you don't do what you want to do, it's frustrating.
Photo gallery: Mud Hens vs. Indianapolis
"My last couple of outings up there [Detroit] weren't the strongest, but I felt I was still competing and making pitches. … I've got to do a better job of coming in and getting outs.
"That's what they expect of me, and I wasn't able to do it."
Below's problems began almost immediately as he gave up singles to the first four Indianapolis batters he faced to put the Hens in a 2-0 hole. The Indians added a run in the second as Below gave up a leadoff single to Yamaico Navarro, then walked Tony Sanchez and Jeff Larish to load the bases with no one out. Below got Brock Holt to hit into a double play that scored another run.
"Without a doubt he didn't have the command he normally does," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of Below. "When you fall behind hitters and walk hitters, you're going to have problems.
"It's uncharacteristic for him to walk four guys, and I know he will bounce back."
Below registered a 1-2-3 third and got the first two outs in the fourth before finding more trouble, walking Larish.
"The third inning was about as good as I felt all night in terms of attacking the strike zone," Below said. "Early in the fourth I felt pretty good, too.
"But I've got to do a better job of throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys. I work off my fastball, and I never was able to get into a groove with it.
"I thought I might be trying to do too much. I've got to relax, continue to work and get back to where I was."
Much of Below's inconsistency can be explained by a lack of work in Detroit.
He made just six appearances for the Tigers after June 27, and his ERA rose from 2.78 to 3.88 until he was optioned to the Mud Hens on Aug. 14.
"I've got to figure out what works for me [in that situation]," Below said. "Now that I'm back in the starting rotation here, I know I have a bullpen in two days."
Below wasn't the only Mud Hens pitcher who struggled against the Indians.
Jose Ortega looked strong, giving up just one hit while fanning two in two scoreless innings, but Daniel Schlereth struggled in the seventh as Holt beat out a bloop hit behind the mound, Anderson Hernandez singled Holt to second, and Alex Presley blooped an RBI single to center.
Schlereth, in his second rehab appearance with the Mud Hens, struck out Matt Hague but walked Dallas McPherson to load the bases with one out.
Zach Miner came on and appeared to give up a sacrifice fly to Brandon Boggs. Right fielder Ben Guez threw McPherson out at second base trying to advance, and the second out came before Hernandez scored, negating that run.
Al Alburquerque came on in the eighth and gave up an infield hit and a walk but avoided further damage.
Matt Hoffman wasn't as fortunate in the ninth.
He gave up singles to Presley and Hague that put runners on first and third with no one out.
With the infield in, Hoffman got McPherson to hit into a double play that didn't allow Presley to score, but Presley eventually trotted home on a two-out single by Boggs.
By the end of the evening every Indianapolis batter except Larish had at least one hit, and the former Mud Hen reached base twice on walks.
That was too much offense for the Mud Hens to overcome as Indianapolis starter Phil Irwin and three relievers combined to shut out Toledo on four hits and three walks.
The closest the Hens came to scoring off Irwin was in the second, when Danny Dorn doubled and both Ben Guez and Bryan Holaday drew walks to load the bases with two outs.
Irwin, who had a 1.80 ERA with Hi-A Bradenton and a 2.93 ERA in 18 starts with Double-A Altoona, got a called third strike on Argenis Diaz to end the threat and gave up just two hits after that.
"His breaking ball did look good, and he comes in with some decent numbers," Nevin said of Irwin. "And he's new to the league, so this is the first time we had seen him.
"But it looked like he had pretty good stuff that he moved around, his velocity was crisp, and we had a hard time with him."
Duke Welker allowed the Hens to put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh but pitched out of that jam, while Jo-Jo Reyes and Doug Slaten each followed with a scoreless inning as Toledo was shut out for the fifth time this season -- but the fourth time in August.
It didn't help that the Mud Hens were 0 for 8 with five strikeouts when batting with runners in scoring position.
NOTES: The International League announced its postseason all-star team, and for the second straight year no Mud Hens were honored. … LHP Andy Oliver will move back to the bullpen, and RHP Luke Putkonen is tentatively slated to start Friday for the Hens in Indianapolis. … Tuesday's crowd of 9,036 was the Mud Hens' 31st sellout this season.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade