Blaine Hardy regretted just one pitch in his start for the Mud Hens on Monday.
With two outs and none on in the fourth inning, the lefty served up a 3-2 fastball that Gwinnett’s Sean Kazmar looped to left field for a single.
“If I had known I was only going to give up one hit, I probably would have thrown a different pitch,” Hardy said.
Kazmar’s hit was the only one Hardy allowed in Toledo’s 6-0 victory over Gwinnett at Fifth Third Field. The win snapped a four-game losing streak and was the first win for the Mud Hens over the Braves at Fifth Third Field after 14 straight losses.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens down Gwinnett 6-0
While Hardy just missed throwing the Hens’ first no-hitter since 1996, he had no qualms about the pitch to Kazmar.
“I’m a stickler for not walking batters,” Hardy said. “Plus, they way they were swinging the bat and getting themselves out, I was going to give him something to hit.
“I threw him a good fastball down, and he hit it into the outfield. Hats off to him.”
Hardy did not walk a batter and struck out four on 107 pitches, 68 of which were strikes, in the Hens’ first complete-game shutout since Jacob Turner blanked Louisville on July 7 of last season.
“That’s the best pitching performance I’ve ever had as a manager,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “[Pitching coach] A.J. Sager and I have said that, if [Hardy] can locate his fastball, he’s going to have some good games. His breaking ball and change-up are ‘plus’ pitches.
“He located the fastball and kept the ball down. He was one bloop single from perfect.”
Hardy got plenty of help from his defense, starting with a nice backhand play by Danny Worth on a hard grounder down the third-base line in the second. Jordan Lennerton made two fine stops at first base to turn potential hits into outs, and Hernan Perez at second made a backhand play up the middle to record an out in the seventh.
And all of those plays took a back seat to a diving catch by centerfielder Kevin Russo on a line drive by Todd Cunningham that ended the sixth.
“The defense was phenomenal,” Hardy said. “I looked over at third base on a ball I expected to go down the line, and [Worth] was there with the back-hand to throw the guy out.
“Then you had Russo out there making a diving catch. Everybody was doing their part.”
Meanwhile the Mud Hens offense gave Hardy plenty of breathing room.
In the first inning Worth singled, and Nick Castellanos followed with his 15th home run of the season, a line drive off high off the left-field scoreboard.
“It was nice to have an early lead,” Nevin said. “It’s tough on pitchers to pitch from behind, and its tough on hitters when each night you’re trying to play catch-up.
“And when you’re behind, you can’t really do things. I was able to put a hit-and-run on, and you’re not able to do that when you’re behind.”
Toledo kept adding on runs, scoring in the second on an RBI double by Russo, then adding two more in the fourth on a two-run double by Perez.
Mike Cervenak, who had three hits, closed the scoring in the seventh when he doubled, took third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch.
By the fourth inning every Hens starter had at least one hit, and by game’s end five Toledo batters had at least two.
With that six-run cushion, the only suspense left was to see if Hardy, whose longest start prior to Monday was six innings, could finish off the Hens’ ninth shutout win this season.
“I went out for the seventh, and I was thinking, ‘Let’s see who’s going to get up in the bullpen,’” Hardy admitted. “Then after the inning they asked if I could go eight, and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’
“Then in the ninth I started thinking about a complete game and a one-hitter.”