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For the second time this season, Mud Hens starter Shawn Hill faced one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, Louisville’s Tony Cingrani.
While Toledo suffered a 2-1 loss to the Bats at Fifth Third Field Sunday, that was no fault of Hill. The 31-year-old right-hander held Louisville in check for seven innings, limiting the Bats to five hits and two runs but taking a hard-luck loss.
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“You know going in to every game the other guy has the ability to shut out your team on any given day,” Hill said. “So you just try to keep your team in the game.
“You know [Cingrani] isn’t going to give up many. But if you’re going to lose a game 2-1, that’s a tough break.”
Hill, a veteran who has pitched for both the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals as well as San Diego and Toronto, said he didn’t feel sharp Sunday.
“I didn’t feel very strong, and I was cutting off my delivery a little bit so the ball wasn’t moving like I like to see it move,” Hill said. “Still, I was happy to get through seven [innings] and keep my team in the game. It wasn’t one of my sharper days, but I’ll take it.
“I just didn’t feel like I had a lot of life in my body, and you have those days through the course of a season. The one thing I had problems with was that it was cold and dry, and the balls were a little slick. On the off-speed stuff I was having a little trouble with the release and spin.”
The Bats scratched out a run in the third when Konrad Schmidt led off with a single, moved to second on a two-out groundout by Billy Hamilton, and scored on a single by Jason Donald.
In the fourth Hill hit Felix Perez with a pitch. Perez moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Denis Phipps and scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Fellhauer.
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Only one other Louisville batter advanced past first against Hill, who gave much of the credit to solid defense, especially several difficult chances handled flawlessly by Argenis Diaz at third base.
“Diaz is smooth out there,” Hill said. “And that’s what I need. I’m not a guy who’s going to get 10 strikeouts a game. I need my defense to work.
“The defense knows I’m going to work quick, so they stay on their toes. But they still have to execute, and they were big.”
Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin agreed, adding, “Shawn threw a lot of strikes and got a lot of ground balls. I can’t say enough about him.
“With Shawn on the mound and our infield, I like that match-up. I don’t have a good Triple-A infield — I have a good major-league infield [defensively].”
The problem for the Mud Hens on Sunday was that Cingrani and three Louisville relievers held Toledo in check with six hits.
Cingrani allowed one baserunner in two innings, and that came when he mishandled a Quintin Berry bunt for an error. Chad Reineke relieved Cingrani in the third and allowed just five hits in four innings, while Jose Arredondo and Kevin Whelan covered the final three frames.
Toledo’s lone run came in the sixth off Reineke, an Ayersville High School grad, when Nick Castellanos doubled with two outs, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a single by Jordan Lennerton.
The Hens had a golden opportunity to tie the game in the eighth when Arredondo walked Gustavo Nunez and Berry singled Nunez to second. When Castellanos hit a soft liner over the shortstop, Louisville’s Donald made a fine over-the-shoulder catch in shallow left.
With Nunez more than two-thirds of the way toward third base, Donald was able to easily double him off second. Lennerton struck out to end the threat.
“When we have our fourth and fifth hitters coming up, that’s a mistake we can’t make,” Nevin said of the baserunning blunder by Nunez. “But Donald is a very smart baseball player. I think he intentionally kept his back to the infield so there wasn’t an infield fly called.
“If he drops it, somebody’s still going to be out. If he catches it, for sure somebody is going to be out.
“But it is a mistake, and we should only give up one out on that play.”
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.