TigsTown MLN: 'Hens Pitching Leads Charge

The world famous Toledo Mud Hens are off to another hot start in 2008 after taking three out of four vs. the Durham Bulls to start the year and then two of three vs. the Charlotte Knights at Fifth Third Field.

During their first seven games the Mud Hens have outscored their opponents 50 to 23. The Mud Hens kick off an eight game road trip facing the Buffalo Bisons and Lehigh Valley IronPigs next.

On the year the Mud Hens now sport a .714 winning percentage. Mud Hens starters have a combined ERA of 2.91 (11 ER/34 IP) and a total of 30 strikeouts. Two wins have come by way of RHP Armando Galarraga who has allowed only three earned runs in 12 innings pitched (2.25 ERA) while striking out eleven and walking one. The 26-year-old Galarraga is in his 10th pro season and his first with the Detroit Organization after being traded from the Texas Rangers on February 5, 2008 for OF Michael Hernandez.

The 2007 Mud Hens wins leader, Virgil Vasquez, has also put together two strong outings, leading the IL in strikeouts with 14 in only ten innings of work while allowing only three ER (2.53 ERA). Vasquez, selected as Toledo's Pitcher of the Year was denied his second win of the season when Mud Hen's relievers allowed a late inning win by Charlotte on the 8th of April.

While the Mud Hens' pitching staff has helped to keep the score low the defense has provided stellar fielding (one error in seven games) and the offense has been pounding the ball. Since the start of the season the Mud Hens offense have provided an amazing 7.14 runs support per game and an International League leading 12 home runs. While 1B Jeff Larish has provided a team high four "round-trippers" it is important to note that seven of the 12 homeruns have come from different players and, surprisingly, Mike Hessman is not among them. Hessman, the Mud Hens all-time HR champ and 2007 IL MVP is approaching another milestone of his own though, needing only four RBI to pass Mud Hen's modern-era record holder Scott Ullger's 233 RBI.

Outfielder Ryan Raburn has also helped to fuel the team with a .333 average, 2 HR and 6 RBI in four games with the Mud Hens. On Wednesday night's game vs. the Charlotte Knights he fell just a triple short of hitting for the cycle for the second time in a year (the first was May 27, 2007 vs. Columbus). Raburn, tabbed as the Tigers Rookie of the Year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association in 2007 put together tremendous spring training numbers with the Tigers and was hopeful of finding a spot on the Tigers full-time roster this year. Unfortunately he was optioned back to Toledo from Detroit on the 5th of April which in turn provides him a good opportunity to play every day and therefore get more at bats. Raburn, like many other Mud Hens players would probably be a starter on 90% of other MLB teams but due to the Tiger's depth at their respective positions he will be buying time until his big break comes.

With the first two series down the Mud Hens look to be more then capable of providing the slumping Detroit Tigers some stellar pitching and potent bats when called upon.

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