Toledo MLN: Hens face off with MLB pitchers

The Mud Hens might be a minor league ball club, but they've recently gotten a taste of major league pitching. On May 13 and 15, Toledo faced former Boston Red Sox standouts Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka, respectively, and came out on the winning end against both Pawtucket hurlers.

On May 18, however, the Hens were no match for former Chicago White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras, who nearly threw a no-hitter in a 4-0 Charlotte victory.

Toledo earned a 1-0 win over Buchholz and Pawtucket, thanks to the pitching of Eddie Bonine and a 10th-inning single by Will Rhymes through a drawn-in infield that scored Don Kelly.

Bonine pitched nine innings and only allowed a one-out single to Dusty Brown in the second. The right-hander retired the 23 batters he faced following Brown's hit and finished with five strikeouts and no walks.

Buchholz, the first Boston Red Sox rookie to pitch a no-hitter - on Sept. 10, 2007 vs. the Orioles - gave up just four hits and struck out 11 Hens in eight innings.

Casey Fien earned the win in relief, striking out two in the 10th inning.

On May 14, the Mud Hens got another stellar pitching effort in an 8-0 win over Pawtucket. Ron Chiavacci pitched four innings and struck out seven, while right-hander Pat Stanley got the victory in his first Triple-A appearance after striking out five in 2 2/3 innings of relief. Fu-Te Ni and Freddy Dolsi completed the shutout.

Toledo then earned its third straight shutout on May 15 when Hens starter Ruddy Lugo and Fien outdueled Matsuzaka in a 6-0 Hens win.

Lugo gave up three hits and no walks in seven innings, while Fien pitched two innings for his third save as Toledo finished 5-3 on its eight-game homestand.

Matsuzaka gave up two runs in the first inning during his rehab appearance. The 28-year-old native of Japan struck out nine in five innings after giving up hits to the first two batters he faced, Jason Tyner, who singled, and Jeff Frazier, who drove in Tyner with a triple.

Contreras, 37, was optioned to Charlotte on May 12 after going 0-5 with an 8.19 ERA in six starts with the White Sox this season. He made his 2009 season debut on April 10 vs. Minnesota, eight months after surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles' tendon.

On May 18, Contreras flirted with a no-hitter against the Mud Hens. The only hit he allowed was a double to Danny Worth in the top of eighth inning. He struck out five and walked three.

BACKWARD SLIDE: After opening May with an eight-game hitting streak, raising his average from .256 to .282, Hens right fielder/DH Brent Clevlen has hit a major slump.

In his last 10 games, Clevlen has just five hits in 40 at-bats (.125 average) with 15 strikeouts. The slump has dropped Clevlen's average to .241.

ALL-STAR CALIBER: Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez is on a tear.

While battling a recurring thumb injury, Ramirez has hit .394 (13-for-33) in his last 10 games, with four home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, five walks and four stolen bases. He now has 14 steals, tying Louisville's Drew Stubbs for tops in the IL.

The Mud Hens' 50 steals lead the IL, while Syracuse is second with 45.

On May 17, in a 5-2 loss at Charlotte, Ramirez went 3-for-3 with a home run, his fifth, to raise his average to .325. On May 16, in a 9-8 loss to Charlotte, Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two homers, three runs and three RBI.

STREAKY HESS: Third baseman Mike Hessman appeared to have broken out of his early-season slump.

From May 12-16, Hessman hit safely in five straight games, batting .450 (9-for-20) with four home runs, seven RBI and only five strikeouts. On May 11 he went 0-for-3 but still reached base twice on walks.

The 6-5, 215-pound Hessman had raised his season average to .215, but a recent 0-for-10 slide has dropped his average to .200.

BACK HOME: The Mud Hens, on a 22-inning scoreless streak, have a much-needed day off on Wednesday before embarking on a four-game trip to Gwinnett (20-20).

Toledo, which has lost four straight to fall to 17-22 in the IL West Division, then has an eight-game homestand against Norfolk (26-12) and Charlotte (17-22).


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