While it always hasn't been sunshine and blue skies for Ryan Strieby this season, he is finally starting to come around as a strong, all-around hitter.
The first baseman, who leads the team with 18 home runs and 69 RBI on the season, is hitting .361 over his last 10 games to raise his season batting average to .272.
"One of my goals coming into this year was to stay healthy throughout the season, and that's something I've accomplished so far," Strieby said. "That was my primary goal, ahead of any stat."
That is something that he has accomplished this season, playing in 109 of the Mud Hens' 117 games on the season.
The Mud Hens got off to a tough start this season, but began playing better as the weather heated up.
A 20-8 record in July pushed the team's record back close to .500, and within striking distance of second and third place in the International League West Division.
"It's hard to pinpoint one thing, maybe it was the rest the guys got [around the All Star break] and just being able to get away from the park for a couple of days," said pitcher Adam Wilk. "We also had a lot of guys come down from the major leagues, so we've had a lot of experience on this team, guys who've had a lot of big league time."
Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen are just a few examples of guys who spent some time with Toledo this season on rehab assignments. In addition, current roster player's Brandon Inge, Ryan Perry, Fu-Te Ni, Enrique Gonzalez and Timo Perez have seen substantial time in the major leagues during their careers.
Conversely, the Mud Hens have lost a lot of games played due to big league call-ups, which was a major reason for their early season struggles.
Of their opening day rotation, (Andrew Oliver, Duane Below, Thad Weber, Charlie Furbush and Wilk) only Weber has not seen time in the majors this season. Below is currently pitching for the Tigers, while Furbush was traded to Seattle as part of the package for Doug Fister and David Pauley.
"I think it's more so been hard on our bullpen, because you'll have a guy expected to start who will sometime get called up a day before he's scheduled to start, then the bullpen has to eat up nine innings as opposed to three or four," Wilk said. "That becomes difficult at times because it can thin them out and then you need the next night's starter to go deeper."
Complete game letdown
Weber dazzled the Toledo crowd Monday evening with arguably his strongest performance of the season.
He went the distance, allowing only two runs on eight hits, striking out four. However, he took the loss in the game, as the Mud Hens could not muster any offense. They put up only three hits and an unearned run against four Indianapolis pitchers.
Sean Gallagher started the game, but went only 4 2/3 innings, as he walked six batters. Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson and Tim Wood finished the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing only one hit and four walks.
-Outfielder Ben Guez finished a home run short of the cycle last Saturday, August 6.
-Weber's complete game loss Monday was the first time this season a Mud Hens' starter went the distance.
-The Mud Hens lead the International League with 114 steals. However, no one on the team has swiped more than 14 bags. But the team does have six players with double digit steals (including Andy Dirks, who hasn't played with the team since his call-up to Detroit in May).
-Wilk is 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 23 innings over his last three starts.
-Inge has reached base in every game he has played with Toledo since Detroit officially out-righted him on July 26 (12 games). In 19 games total with the Mud Hens, he is hitting .308 with five home runs and 14 RBI.
-Perry pitched 3 1/3 innings August 7 to pick up his seventh save of the season. He threw 54 pitches in the outing, 39 for strikes. It was his second appearance of at least three innings with the Mud Hens this season, along with his July 17 outing against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.