Toledo MLN: Searching for Improvement

Improvement has never been quick or easy, and that has been the case for the Toledo Mud Hens this season. After a horrific 7-22 record in June, the Mud Hens are off to a respectable 4-2 start to July. However, time is running out for the Mud Hens to make a move in the standings, as they sit at 36-52, 21.5 games behind Columbus for first in the West Division.

Long time coming

It would not be a stretch to say that the Mud Hens have struggled against the Columbus Clippers this season. After all, they are the best team in the International League with 57 wins. That mark is 6.5 games better than anyone else in the league.

Really, the Mud Hens haven't just struggled against their in-state rivals, they have been thoroughly dominated. The Mud Hens win over the Clippers July 1 was the first time it defeated Columbus since April 18, and Toledo holds a 3-11 record against them this season.

Those games haven't really been close either. Toledo has been outscored 83-51 by Columbus this season, which is by an average of 2.28 runs per game (Columbus averages 5.92 per game against the Mud Hens, while Toledo averages 3.64 runs per game.

The Mud Hens will play a four game home-and-home series against the Clippers this weekend, and it will be the last time the two teams meet until the final series of the regular season Sept. 2-5.

Piecing it together

In the team's home stand finale July 3, the Mud Hens pitching staff pieced together one of its more impressive outings of the season.

Fu-Te Ni made his first start on American soil, pitching 4 1/3 innings, allowing no runs on three hits and three walks, striking out three.

"I was a starter in Taiwan, so this was a chance to reminisce on what it was like to be a starter again," Ni said through an interpreter.

Following Ni, Matt Hoffman pitched three strong innings, allowing a run on a hit and a walk, which gave him his first win of the season.

Brendan Wise picked up his seventh hold of the season by throwing 2/3 of an inning without allowing a baserunner, and Jose Ortega pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Mud Hens also scored seven runs in the game, with Ryan Strieby hitting his 11th home run of the season.

"This was as big a team win as we've had all year," said Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin. "We've had a few comeback wins that were nice early in the year, and we've had some other nice wins along the way, but to this point of the season, this is the best overall team win we've had."

Minor setback

Carlos Guillen, with the Mud Hens on a rehab assignment, left Sunday's game with what Nevin called "minor soreness." However, he returned to the lineup at second base on Tuesday.

With several Tigers players coming back from or heading to the disabled list, the Mud Hens' roster has been in flux for the past month or so.

Brayan Villarreal had a brief stint with the Tigers this week. He was originally recalled June 30 in a move that sent Daniel Schlereth. Villarreal was sent back down July 3, which brought Adam Wilk back to the big leagues. Wilk had been reassigned to Toledo just two weeks ago.

Also, with Al Alburquerque being placed on the DL, Lester Oliveros was recalled by the Tigers this week.

Lone star

Will Rhymes was the only member of the Mud Hens to be selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game, taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah July 13.

While Rhymes stated the season with the Tigers, he has been arguably the Mud Hens top hitter this season. He leads the team with a .311 average, and is second with a .372 on-base percent. He has eight stolen bases, 16 extra-base hits and has only made two errors all season.

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