Hernan Perez was happy to talk — until the subject of “streaks” came up.
“No, no, no!” the Mud Hens shortstop said quickly. “I’m not going to talk about that until it’s a lot longer.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view more photos
Perez is one of two Toledo players who has a long streak of consecutive games with at least one hit. He singled in the first inning of Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Columbus.
The Mud Hens won behind starter Derek Hankins, who fell one out short of throwing a complete-game shutout.
Hankins struck out only two but did not walk a batter. He retired 16 Clippers in a row after a first-inning single, then sat down nine straight before allowing a two-out double and an RBI single by Jesus Aguilar in the top of the ninth.
Corey Knebel came on to get the final out and claim his second save with the Hens.
Toledo scored both of its runs in the sixth when Wade Gaynor beat out a fielder's choice grounder to score Jordan Lennerton, and Ezequiel Carrera's two-out single plated Ben Guez.
That hit gave Perez a 14-game hitting streak, tying him with teammate Trevor Crowe for the longest active streak in the International League. Perez and Crowe, who did not start for the Hens on Thursday, are four behind the 18-game streak by Buffalo’s Kevin Pillar earlier this season.
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said not talking about the streak is one of the superstitious habits surrounding hitting streaks.
“If you’re getting hits, you take care of that bat like it’s a magic wand,” Parrish said. “But during a streak, you try to eat the same food as long as the streak lasts, things like that.”
Parrish said a hitting streak often begins when players are not trying to start a hitting streak.
“You have to be ‘locked in’ with your approach, and you have to keep everything simple,” he said. “When you ask a hitter during a batting streak, they usually are seeing the ball well and their mind isn’t cluttered.
“They aren’t worried where their hands are or if they are striding too much.”
Crowe and Perez are red-hot. Crowe has gone 18-for-53 (.340) during his streak, collecting four doubles and three home runs among those 18 hits.
Perez entered Thursday’s game with 21 hits in his last 57 at-bats (.368), including two doubles, a triple and a home run to his credit.
Parrish said there are times when a hit streak can play in the favor of the hitter.
“When a pitcher knows [about a streak], sometimes they try to do more to get you out, and it turns out to be less,” he said. “And that’s when you’re talking about a 15-game hitting streak or something like that.”
He also said luck often plays a part in a streak.
“Usually in that situation there’s a game where you don’t hit a ball well,” Parrish said. “But you hit a 94-hopper that finds a hole and gets through, or you get a bloop hit off your thumbnails.
“But there also are games where you swing the ball well and don’t get a hit. You walk once or twice, you hit the ball hard twice but right at someone.”
In Thursday’s win, the Hens fourth in a row, Derek Hankins shut out the Clippers until there were two outs in the ninth.
He retired 16 batters in a row after a first-inning single, then sat down nine straight after a two-out single in the sixth.
“I was getting my fastball over early in the count,” said Hankins, who threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 30 batters he faced. “They were rolling over on my two-seamer a lot, and I was able to establish my breaking ball for a strike.
“They were swinging early, and they did that in my last start – but in that game, my ball was up [in the strike zone].”
With two outs in the ninth Hankins gave up a double to Tyler Holt and an RBI single by Jesus Aguilar to lose the shutout. Corey Knebel came on to get the final out and claim his second save with the Hens.
Meanwhile the Toledo offense struggled despite having a baserunner in every inning but the fifth. The Hens scored both of their runs in the sixth when Wade Gaynor beat out a fielder's choice grounder to score Jordan Lennerton, and Ezequiel Carrera's two-out single plated Ben Guez.