Things didn’t look very good for Mud Hens starter Shawn Hill at the beginning of Monday’s game.
By the time he got three outs in the first inning, Hill already had allowed two runs.
But unlike Wednesday, when the veteran right hander struggled in a morning start and eventually gave up 11 hits and seven runs in less than three innings, Hill found a way to turn things around Monday.
He limited Syracuse to three runs in six innings of work, giving the Mud Hens a chance to come back in a game they eventually lost 4-3 in 10 innings.
“What I liked is that he battled, figured out what he had, and was able to get a lot of outs,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin. “He gave us a chance to win.”
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Hill started the season strong, posting a 2.22 ERA and .212 opponents batting average in his first four start with the Hens. But the 32-year-old sensed trouble, even in those early starts.
“Even early in the season I was telling people, ‘It’s not quite right,’" he said. “I felt I was getting closer, but we did something and it got worse and kind of put me in a funk.
“Nobody is going to question you when the results are fine. But when the results go the other way, people want to know what the problem is.”
So Hill and pitching coach A.J. Sager made some modifications in his delivery, and Hill said he felt improvement in his most recent bullpen session.
“In the first inning [Monday] I had a little life in my arm, but I was overthrowing a little bit,” Hill said. “I was reverting from the correct way to ‘yanking’ a lot of pitches.
“Then I settled down. There were bouts where I would throw a couple of bad ones, then a couple good ones.”
Hill said making the adjustments in his delivery were especially difficult when dealing with a morning game, a loud crowd of screaming schoolchildren, and unseasonably warm weather.
“If it’s a one o’clock game, you’re ready for the heat,” Hill said. “At 10:30 in the morning — and I’m not a morning person — your body wonders what is going on.”
Still Hill was able to finish six innings and allowed six hits and two walks while fanning four in a game when he knew he had to throw as many innings as possible to help the Hens’ beleaguered bullpen.
“I was trying to make adjustments mechanically, but the priority in a game is to get outs,” Hill said. “I have to execute a pitch.
“You get caught between, ‘How much can I work on stuff to help myself?’ and ‘I need to get deep into the game.’ ”
For the season, Hill has an 0-4 record and 4.92 ERA, but he said his winless record isn’t a good measure of how he has pitched this season.
“I’ve seen pitchers with a 4.50 ERA who are 15-7, and I’ve seen guys with a 2.25 ERA and go 10-12,” Hill said. “Felix Hernandez won a Cy Young with a .500 record.
“Obviously you want to win games. But there’s only so much you can do to control that.”
GOOD MORNING: The crowd for Monday’s “School Celebration Day” contest was 10,800 to give the Mud Hens their third sellout in as many days and sixth full house this season.
The good news with the 10:30 a.m. games is that the Hens have drawn an average of 9,165.5 fans per contest in those games over the years, almost double the team’s average for midweek games in May.
The bad news is the loss means Toledo has lost eight of its last nine morning games. The Hens are 24-17 all-time in School Celebration Day games.
STREAKY: Jordan Lennerton doubled in the fifth to extend his current hit streak to 10 games, the longest for a Hen this season.
But Lennerton isn’t the only Toledo hitter on a hot streak, as Ramon Cabrera doubled in the first inning to give him hits in eight straight contests.
Two players in this series have longer active hit streaks than Lennerton.
Syracuse outfielder Chris Rahl singled in the first Monday to extend his current hit streak to 13 games, while Chiefs first baseman Chris Marrero singled in the eighth to give him hits in 11 consecutive contests.