Mud Hens turn corner after road trip

Hitting, pitching, and a strong bullpen has help Toledo out of the basement. Also, Jordan Lennerton has a professional baseball-best 47 consecutive games reaching base safely.
Hitting, pitching, and a strong bullpen has help Toledo out of the basement. Also, Jordan Lennerton has a professional baseball-best 47 consecutive games reaching base safely.

When the Mud Hens left June 8 for an eight-game road trip, they had the worst record in the International League.

When they came back Monday to Fifth Third Field, that spot was in the rear-view mirror.

Toledo returned home after winning seven of its last eight, more than doubling its road win total for the season.

“It was probably just our time to start winning a few games,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s easy to point at this or that [as the reason we’re winning], but we’ve hit well, we’ve pitched well, and the back end of our bullpen has been good.”

Since the start of June, the Mud Hens have posted a 13-3 record, the best mark in the IL.

Toledo has been good in all facets of the game during that span, hitting .301 — tops in the league — while posting a team ERA of 3.53 that’s third-best in the IL.

“We’re gelling as a team, having a lot of fun,” said Ben Guez, who had two hits, including a home run run. “Whether it’s batting practice or a game, we’re all having fun.

“And I think that plays a huge role in how we play the game.”

Nevin said the raw statistics only point at part of the reason for the Hens’ success.

“The one thing you can point out it was that it was somebody different [helping us win] each day,” Nevin said. “Whether it was our pitching or our hitting, we had everyone playing a role.”

What made the road trip especially pleasing to Nevin was that the Mud Hens rallied to win three times — the last game in Rochester June 11, then the first two in Syracuse last Thursday and Friday — as part of the six-game winning streak the team brought home.

“Whenever you play well for an extended period of time, the feeling in the clubhouse or dugout is that something good is going to happen,” Nevin said. “When you’re not winning games, there’s a sense in the back of your head that something bad is going to happen, and it usually does.

“The game is crazy that way. When you have these good times, you just grab onto them and hope they last.”

CHANGES MADE: A pair of injuries in Detroit resulted in changes in the Mud Hens’ roster before Monday’s game.

Tigers catcher Alex Avila was placed on the disabled list after getting hitting on the arm by a pitch Sunday, and Detroit called up Hens catcher Bryan Holaday to replace him.

The Tigers also placed starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez on the disabled list, retroactive to his start Saturday. To replace the pitcher on the roster, Detroit called up OF Avisail Garcia.

Sound strange? The idea is that the Tigers will have an extra position player until they reach Thursday, when Sanchez was scheduled to start against Boston.

On that day Detroit will call up Mud Hens starter Jose Alvarez to take the start against the Red Sox. The Tigers will need to make a move to open up a spot for Alvarez on their roster.

CROSBY HURT: Toledo starter Casey Crosby was hurt on the first play of Monday’s game.

Lehigh Valley leadoff hitter Jermaine Mitchell hit a slow roller down the first-base line that stayed fair. Crosby picked the ball up, spun, and threw to first but landed hard in foul territory.

Crosby appeared to be shaken up after the play but stayed in the game and finished the inning. When he came out to warm up for the second, he twisted his knee on his first warmup pitch and had to leave the game.

Nevin said the Mud Hens will have a better sense on the severity of the injury today, adding that he doesn’t believe it’s serious.

NOTES: The Mud Hens finished with 16 hits, one short of their season high. The team did finish with six doubles, including a pair by Danny Worth, to tie their season high in that category. … Jordan Lennerton finished with two hits and has reached base in 47 consecutive games. That’s the longest streak in professional baseball.