Toledo MLN: Trying to Right the Ship

With the All-Star break right around the corner, the Toledo Mud Hens are still struggling to right the ship. A 2-5 week, culminating with a losing streak that reached nine until a victory against Louisville on June 26. Toledo's record now sits a 32-48, a winning percent of only .400.

Things don't appear like they will be getting any better soon, as seven of the Mud Hens' 11 games before the break are against division-leading Columbus, whose 53 wins is seven more than anyone else in the International League.

Pitching struggles

Not surprisingly, the Mud Hens won both games this week when their pitching staff allowed fewer than five runs.

Those games were back-to-back (June 26-27) and were highlighted by strong starts from Duane Below and Thad Weber.

Below threw six innings, giving up two runs on four hits, three walks and six strikeouts, while Weber picked up his first win at Fifth Third Field on the season, going seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, three walks and five strikeouts.

"I just tried to be aggressive; [Louisville] is an aggressive team and they've shown that, so I threw a few more breaking balls … and just let them put it in play," Weber said.

Unfortunately for the Mud Hens, those were the only two games where the pitching staff did allow less than five runs, as they were knocked around the rest of the week.

They allowed 38 runs in the five losses this week. While the starting pitchers in those games did not get the game started off well, the relievers regressed on a recent trend of strong performances and added fuel to the proverbial fire.

In 24 innings from the starters in the five losses (Weber, Enrique Gonzalez, Andrew Oliver, Brayan Villarreal and Adam Wilk) they allowed 25 runs and had a 17:16 strikeout-walk ratio.

As mentioned, the bullpen did not perform as well as it had the last couple of weeks, allowing 13 runs in 20 1/3 innings.

It was an especially tough week for Matt Hoffman, who has been arguably the team's best reliever this season. In three appearances, spanning 4 1/3 innings, he allowed four runs on five hits and a walk.

However, despite that, he still has a strong 2.91 ERA on the season.

"I've just come out and changed what I've been doing, throwing strikes," he said. "Last year I came here and struggled trying to do more than I was capable of and paid for it, but this year just doing my job and it's paid off so far."

Not home cookin'

The Mud Hens have been much worse at home this season than on the road. The Mud Hens are 12-28 at home, while they are 20-20 on the road.

This is epitomized by Weber. Even with the win this week, Weber has posted significantly worse starts at home than on the road. His road ERA sits at a very respectable 3.26. However, his ERA at home is 8.06.

"Mentally today, I thought that I was much better than I have been at home the who knows how many previous [starts]," he said after Monday's win. "I felt like I stayed within myself when things got sticky, which they did a couple of times, and I just slowed myself down and made pitches."

Weber isn't the only Toledo starter with worse splits at home than on the road. Wilk has a 5.89 ERA at home, compared to a 2.81 ERA on the road. Oliver has a 5.52 ERA at home and a 3.32 ERA on the road. While Gonzalez has made only two starts (13 overall appearances) for the Mud Hens, he has also been much better on the road, with a 4.00 ERA away from Fifth Third Field, and a 6.30 ERA at home.

Table setter

Will Rhymes was instrumental in the Mud Hens offense this week batting out of the leadoff spot.

He went 8-for-24 (.333) with six walks in the seven games, scoring five runs and adding a home run.

On the season, his .308 batting average is second highest on the team amongst players still on the roster, and his .377 on-base percent is also second highest (Argenis Diaz leads the team in both categories). While not a power hitter (he's slugging only .415) his patience at the play has been a strong asset for the Mud Hens to have this season, as he sports a strong 28:23 strikeout-walk ratio.

"He's been a spark for us at the top and is a guy who takes good at bats," said manager Phil Nevin. "He's not a guy who is going to carry your team but he's definitely a spark at the top who helps you out a lot."

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