Toledo MLN: Hens Hot Into the All-Star Break

Heading into the All-Star break, the Toledo Mud Hens played some of their best baseball of the season. They won four of their last five games before the break, including taking three of four games from division-leading Columbus. However, the Mud Hens have an uphill battle to fight in the second half.

At 39-53, the Mud Hens sit eight games behind third-place Indianapolis in the International League West division, and 19.5 games behind division-leading Columbus.

Staying hot

Second baseman Will Rhymes rode his hot streak into the All-Star break.

The Mud Hens' only All-Star had a hit in each of the Mud Hens last five games, going 11-for-21 (.524) with three extra base hits, six runs scored and an RBI.

Starting the season on the Detroit roster, Rhymes was sent down just over a month into the season. He is doing his best to earn another chance with the big club, hitting a team-high .324 in 62 games.

His .383 on-base percentage also leads the team, while he is fourth on the team in steals (8), second in runs (34), fifth in doubles (13), first in triples (4) and fourth in total bases (104).

He has also been solid defensively on the season, committing only three errors, or as many as Scott Sizemore had in 23 games.

Pitching shines

While the Mud Hens had a strong offensive effort this week, the main reason for their 4-1 record was the performance of the pitchers.

The Mud Hens had five quality starts in five opportunities, with the only hiccup coming from the bullpen July 7, when Matt Hoffman came in and got an out, but gave up two baserunners, who both scored when Chance Ruffin came in and gave up three hits – including a home run – without getting an out.

Despite that miscue, Thad Weber was strong starting that game, throwing seven innings, allowing two runs on four walks and five hits, striking out three.

The pitching got off to a strong start this week behind another strong performance from Duane Below, who picked up his ninth win July 6. He tossed seven strong innings, giving up a run on four hits and four walks, striking out four. The start lowered his season ERA to 3.06.

Daniel Schlereth and Brendan Wise combined to pitch the final two innings of that game without allowing a hit.

Brayan Villarreal followed up Below and Weber's strong starts with one of his own July 8, allowing four runs – three earned – in six innings, allowing five hits and two walks, while striking out three.

Things got a little messy after he left the game, as Brad Thomas gave up two runs on three hits and two walks while retiring only one batter, but Schlereth got out of the inning, coming in and throwing an inning and two-thirds without allowing a baserunner.

July 9, Andrew Oliver posted his second straight strong start, the first time he had done such since early May. He threw 6 2/3 innings against Columbus, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks, striking out two.

Finally this week, Fu-Te Ni closed out the Mud Hens' unofficial first half of the season by throwing 5 2/3 strong innings in only his second start of the season. He allowed one run on three hits and a walk, striking out nine.

Into the break …

Heading into the All-Star break, the Mud Hens have been one of the most offensively anemic teams in the International League this season.

Their 352 runs scored are second fewest in the league, ahead of Syracuse, which has scored three fewer runs. The team's .258 batting average is seventh in the league, while their .393 slugging percent is tenth.

The Mud Hens' pitching hasn't fared too much better, as they sit at ninth in the league with a 4.25 team ERA. The Mud Hens have allowed the fifth fewest hits in the league (784), but have given up the second most walks (316, tied with Norfolk). Hence, the team has the fourth highest WHIP in the league (1.38).

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