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Mud Hens starter Shawn Hill saved his best for his last outing of the season on Thursday night, but an anemic Toledo offense wasted it.
Hill (4-14) made his team-leading 26th start of the season and gave up just six hits and two runs over seven strong innings.
But the Mud Hens managed just three hits and lost 3-2 in 11 innings to Indianapolis before a crowd of 7,875 at Fifth Third Field.
Hill entered the game with a 5.65 earned run average and had struggled in the opening innings of his starts. But Hill threw 107 pitches, striking out four while walking only three.
Hill did not allow a hit over the first two innings and struck out two.
“I kind of salvaged my season in a sense,” Hill said. “Obviously I'd like to get a win. But I got the feel back. I have a lot of work to do in the off season. But this will at least give me a springboard.”
Toledo batters struck out 18 times.
“They pitched [well]. Give them credit,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “But you have to find a way to grind out at bats. These are all pitchers we've seen before. We need to take better at bats.”
The Indians manufactured the go-ahead run in the 11th off of reliever Evan Reed. After a lead-off walk and a sacrifice bunt, Carlos Paulino singled in the winning run with two outs.
The Mud Hens wasted a solid outing from a starting pitcher for the second straight game. One night after getting just five hits in a 1-0 loss in extra innings to Indianapolis, right fielder Ben Guez staked Toledo to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning with a two-run home run over the left-field fence. Guez worked the count to three and one and then hammered a fastball for his 18th home run of the year.
But those were the only runs the Hens would get to support Hill.
The Indians came up with back-to-back RBI singles off of Hill to tie it at 2 in the third inning. Center fielder Kevin Russo then made a terrific diving catch to prevent at least one more run from scoring.
Hill, a 32-year-old right hander, had allowed 21 runs in the first innings of his starts. But Hill had posted a 3-2 record in his last six starts. He has tossed two complete games this season.
Hill said he changed his mechanics in April and it “threw him for a loop.”
“I wasn't throwing like myself. It's slowly coming back,” he said. “My stuff is not back all the way but I'm starting to see signs of it. I almost wish I had another month left. I'm not tired and I wish I had more time to get back to where I'm supposed to.”
Hill allowed a lead-off double to start the seventh but worked out of further trouble.
“It's been a tough year for Shawn,” Nevin said. “But he's worked and battled. He had a stint where he pitched hurt and did not say much. But he never complained. He took the ball and finished very strong.”
Major league veteran Phil Coke relieved Hill in the eighth inning. Coke, who was sent down from Detroit on Aug. 21, threw 15 pitches and struck out two batters to keep it tied at 2. Reed followed Coke with a one-hit ninth inning. Reed also wiggled out of trouble in the 10th but gave up the lead in the 11th.
Nick Castellanos and Mike Cervenak had the other two hits for Toledo.
“After that first inning, there wasn't much offense,” Nevin said.
The Hens have just two more home games left this season. Toledo hosts Columbus on Friday and Saturday. The Mud Hens close the 2013 campaign on the road at Columbus on Sunday and Monday.
Toledo (59-81) has not made the playoffs since 2007. Indianapolis (79-61) has already won the International League West Division for the second straight season. The Indians clinched on Aug. 24.