The seasons for the Mud Hens and starting pitcher Shawn Hill continue to mirror one another.
Both the Hens and Hill suffered a 3-0 loss to Lehigh Valley on Thursday, Toledo’s third in a row and Hill’s fifth loss in six starts.
“There were struggles [early], then we bounced back,” Hill said, comparing his season to the team’s. “As bad as we were the first month [of the season], how bad is three [losses]?
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“We need to shrug it off, throw it aside, and get back to what we were doing.”
Hill pitched well, allowing six hits and two walks while fanning a season-high eight in eight innings.
He gave up a run in the first inning as Jermaine Mitchell singled, stole second, and came home on a two-out single by Darin Ruf that scooted past Danny Worth at second base.
“He did work quickly to keep the defense on their toes,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “With the run in the first, that was a ball we need to knock down on the infield — I don’t think Danny saw it very well.
“But it’s nice to see Shawn back in a rhythm.”
Hill got a strikeout to end the first and retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced.
“At this point, I’m trying to get away from thinking too mechanically,” he said. “I know what needs to be done, and there are eeeeeeeeeemechanical issues, but they are minor at this point.
“This is more about trusting my stuff, getting comfortable on the mound again, and not trying too hard.”
In the fifth Lehigh Valley’s Steve Susdorf singled, then scored from first on a double to deep center by Steven Lerud. Lerud took third on a groundout, then came home on a single by Cesar Hernandez.
“The only batter I’d like to take back [in the fifth], to be honest, is Lerud,” Hill said. “And that was because I fell behind 2-0.
“I had to come in with a pitch. The pitch was almost on the ‘black,’ [in centerfield] but it was up.”
Unfortunately for Hill, who fell to 1-9, those three runs were too much for the Hens to overcome as IronPigs starter Raul Valdes and two relievers shut them out on five hits.
The left-handed Valdes, who began the season with Philadelphia, was especially effective. He gave up just three hits and one walk in eight innings, striking out eight while not allowing Toledo to move a runner past second base.
“Those crafty lefties can get you, especially when you’re swinging the bats well,” Nevin said. “He got into an early rhythm, threw a lot of strikes and kept us off-balance.”
Nick Castellanos had a single, a double, and a walk in his three plate appearances against Valdes but said the 35-year-old Cuban was tough.
“He mixed everything well, and he didn’t give us a lot to hit early in counts,” Castellanos said. “He got ahead of me with two strikes, and after that you just have to battle. Because we’re swinging the bats well as a team, we’re all very aggressive — and I think he took advantage of that.”
In the eighth the Mud Hens loaded the bases with two outs but did not score. Then in the ninth a leadoff walk was wasted as Toledo was shut out for the second time in three days and seventh time this season.
“We’ve been here, so we’re not as worried about this,” Castellanos said of the team’s three-game losing streak. “In the beginning of the season we hadn’t won many games. Now we know as a group we can win. It’s just a matter of getting things rolling again.”
NOTES: Before the game the Mud Hens placed LHP Casey Crosby on the disabled list. Today Toledo will receive LHP Blaine Hardy from Double-A Erie to replace him. ... RHP Robbie Weinhardt will take Crosby’s scheduled start against Pawtucket on Saturday. ... Mike Cervenak went 0-for-4 Thursday to snap a 10-game hitting streak. ... Argenis Diaz’s hit in the eighth extended his streak to 12 contests.
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