Toledo MLN: Looking Up in June

With strong pitching from Luke French and a healthy Wilkin Ramirez, things are starting to look up for the Mud Hens. Plus, which pitcher would be helping the club earn some more wins if he could just get a little run support.

Left-hander Luke French is starting to become one of the Mud Hens' most reliable pitchers.

Prior to Tuesday's afternoon start at Norfolk, the 6-4, 220-pounder did not allow an earned run in his last two games, covering 13 2/3 innings. In his previous outing before that, French gave up a season-high eight runs.

In Tuesday's 9-4 win over Norfolk, French (4-3) allowed one run in five innings before giving up three in the sixth - including a two-run homer by Jolbert Cabrera. By that time, the Mud Hens already owned a 9-1 lead.

French lasted 6 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (all earned) on eight hits, with one strikeout and one walk. Casey Fien and Fu-Te Ni closed out the game, giving up two hits and striking out three over the final 2 1/3 innings.

French, who has lowered his ERA to 3.53, earned a victory on May 29 against Charlotte. He pitched seven innings and gave up five hits and no earned runs while striking out six. On June 4 he got a no-decision despite 6 2/3 innings of three-hit ball. He struck out eight and did not give up an earned run.

NO SUPPORT: Right-hander Brooks Brown was 5-0 in six starts at Double-A Erie this season before being called up to the Mud Hens. He could just as easily be 4-0 with Toledo if not for a lack of run support.

Brown (0-4) is still looking for his first Triple-A win after suffering a 4-1 loss at Durham on June 5.

In that game, the Georgia native surrendered two earned runs on four hits in six innings, dropping his ERA to 3.42. Brown has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his four starts, covering 26 1/3 innings.

RAMIREZ RETURNS: Left fielder Wilkin Ramirez missed six games, from May 29 to June 3, with a recurring thumb injury and he is still finding his way in the batter's box.

Ramirez was batting .295 on May 27, but since his return he is hitting just .143 (3-for-21) with 11 strikeouts in six games. He went hitless with nine strikouts in his first 14 at-bats after returning to the Mud Hens' lineup. His batting average has dipped to .275 after going 1-for-3 with a solo home run and three walks in Tuesday's win over Norfolk.

COOLING OFF: Centerfielder Don Kelly was batting .348 on June 3 and had just been named the International League's Batter of the Week.

Since then, Kelly has gone 6-for-23 (.261) but has hit safely in 19 of his last 21 games. He is hitting .341 - second in the IL - and is the only current Mud Hen batting over .300. Shortstop Brent Dlugach, who has hit safely in eight of his last 11 games, is second on the team with a .284 average.

Kelly drove in a run in Monday's 5-1 loss at Norfolk, but he saw his 22-game on-base streak come to an end against the Tides.

DOT, DOT, DOT: In his last 10 games second baseman Will Rhymes is batting .385 (15-for-39) with four doubles, five runs scored and six RBI. Rhymes has at least one hit in his last nine games at Fifth Third Field ...

Right fielder Brent Clevlen is batting .367 (11-for-30) in his last seven games, with three doubles, two triples, a home run and five RBI ... Despite struggling at the plate, Toledo continues to lead the IL in stolen bases. The Hens have 69 steals and have been caught just 14 times. The next closest team is Indianapolis (60). Ramirez has 18 steals, which is tied for second in the IL ...

First baseman Jeff Larish returned to the Hens on Tuesday after the Detroit Tigers recalled Marcus Thames. In two games since rejoining Toledo, Larish, who last played for the Mud Hens on May 4, is 1-for-8 with one run, one walk and two strikeouts. In 12 games with Toledo, Thames batted .245 (12-for-49) with two home runs and six RBI ...

Toledo had won five of its last seven games and outscored opponents 26-25. The Hens also out-hit opponents by a 53-47 margin. Toledo has collected seven or fewer hits in five of its last seven games ...

After a miserable May, in which the Hens batted .251 as a team and had a 10-20 record, Toledo has a 5-4 record this month. The Mud Hens (25-34) have Wednesday night off - their only off day in June - before opening up a four-game home series against Rochester (28-29). Toledo is 11-15 at Fifth Third Field this season.

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