BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
A troubling trend continued for Mud Hens starter Shawn Hill on Sunday at Fifth Third Field.
The right hander has had issues getting out of the gate quickly. Hill had given up 19 earned runs in the first innings of his previous 23 starts for a 7.43 earned run average.
On Sunday, Gwinnett struck for five runs in the first two innings off Hill and went on to post a 7-3 win before a crowd of 9,191.
In a battle of the two worst teams in the International League, Gwinnett (56-74) got the best of Toledo (54-76) for the second straight game.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens lose to Gwinnett
Hill (4-14) made his team-leading 24th start of the season. He gave up six earned runs and saw his earned run average balloon to 5.70.
After getting the first two outs of the game rather easily on a ground out and pop out, Hill yielded two consecutive hits that led to a 1-0 Braves lead. Alden Carrithers singled and Ernesto Mejia drove in his league-leading 80th run with a double.
Hill struggled with his command in the second inning and Gwinnett tacked on four more runs for a quick 5-0 cushion.
Hill walked two batters and gave up two singles and a double as his pitch count climbed to 48 in the second inning. The Hens' defense also committed two errors on one play that led to one unearned run.
Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said Hill is the type of pitcher who needs to work the corners and may have been a victim of a tight strike zone by home plate ump Ian Fazio.
“There were pitches that were really close and were just off the plate. And he's a guy who has to pitch to the sides of the plate,” Nevin said.
Toledo made it 5-2 in the second inning on a two-out, two-run RBI single from Argenis Diaz that scored Danny Dorn and Mike Cervenak.
The Mud Hens added another run on catcher John Murrian's fielder's choice in the sixth. Toledo had the bases loaded with only one out but scored just one run to make it 5-3.
“They loaded the bases and got a big hit. We loaded them up and we did not get the big hit,” Nevin said.
Gwinnett quickly responded in the seventh with two more earned runs on Hill, who was removed after throwing 97 pitches.
“We battled back,” Nevin said. “But once we allowed the add on runs in the seventh, their bullpen shut us down. At the end of the day we're falling behind early quite a bit, so two or three runs aren't going to win many games.”
Toledo reliever Kenny Faulk worked out of a one-out, bases loaded jam in the eighth inning. Faulk did not give up a run in 1 2/3 innings and struck out two.
“I tried to get the guys out with one pitch at a time instead of looking at the situation,” Faulk said.
Faulk struck out one batter and then coaxed a fly out.
“It felt amazing to see the pop fly. I has very happy to get out of that,” Faulk said.
Faulk saw his earned run average fall to 3.57. He has 50 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings for a Hens team that is 19 games out of first place.
“What keeps me motivated is that this is my first year in Triple A and I want to show Detroit that I can hold my own,” Faulk said.
Robbie Weinhardt pitched a scoreless ninth inning for Toledo.
The teams played the second contest of a four-game series at Fifth Third Field. They meet again later today and close the series on Tuesday.
NOTES: The Hens turned an inning-ending double play in the third. Joe Leonard popped out to second baseman Hernan Perez and Brandon Boggs was doubled off after attempting to steal. … Perez now has a six-game hitting streak since being sent down from Detroit on Aug. 13. He went 2 of 4. … Catcher John Murrian made his debut in a Mud Hens' uniform. Murrian, who was called up from Single A Lakeland on Aug. 13, went 0 for 4. … It was the 29th sellout of the season at Fifth Third Field.
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.