Toledo MLN: Hens on the Run

It's only July 1, but a betting man would do well to put his cash on the Mud Hens ending up leading the International League in stolen bases this season.

Manager Larry Parrish's squad easily leads the league with 90 steals (the next closest team is Norfolk, with 74), and the Hens have only been caught 21 times.

The team leader is outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, whose 24 steals (he's been thrown out four times) is the fourth-highest total in the IL.

"We've been fortunate because we have a few guys who can run," Parrish said. "Early in the year we had (Ryan) Raburn here and Clete Thomas has been here off and on, and he can run. Wilkin Ramirez can really run. Don Kelly was doing a good job for us here. He reads pitchers well and gets a good jump."

Thomas is 17-for-20 in stolen bases in 40 games with the Mud Hens, while Kelly was 14-for-17 during his time in Toledo. Will Rhymes is also 14-for-17 in steals through 54 games.

In all, 14 different players have swiped a base for the Mud Hens in 2009.

"A lot of stolen bases have to do with the players you've got," Parrish said. "We knew going into the season we had some guys who could run. You manage according to what you've got.

"The 2006 club we had here was more of a power club. We struck out a ton but we hit a bunch of homers and we didn't steal that much. That just wasn't the makeup of that club. (Stealing bases) helps you sometimes because you can get a guy in scoring position and it makes it easier to score a guy from second base. But, you still have to drive him in."

Freddie Guzman, now an outfielder with Pawtucket, was with the Mud Hens last season when he led the IL with 56 stolen bases.

HARD LUCK HURLER: Brooks Brown pitched seven innings of five-hit ball while allowing one run (earned), with two walks and four strikeouts on June 28.

His ERA dropped to 4.04, but he did not figure in the Mud Hens' 2-1 loss at Indianapolis. Brown (1-6) has pitched well since joining the Toledo roster but has received little run support. In Sunday's loss, the Mud Hens had just two hits and struck out 18 times against two Indianapolis pitchers.

Indy starter Ian Snell recorded 13 consecutive strikeouts on his way to a minor league season-high 17 K's over seven innings. The right-hander mowed down a Mud Hens lineup that included five players with major league experience.

Snell walked Rhymes to start the game and then struck out the next 13 Toledo batters. The streak ended when Brent Dlugach singled with one out in the fifth inning. Dlugach later scored an unearned run when Mike Hessman bounced into a forceout. Sizemore, Jeff Larish and Thomas each struck out three times in the loss. Larish has struck out 10 times in his last 24 at-bats. Thomas has struck out nine times in his last 22 plate appearances.

ROUGH NIGHT: Tuesday night's Hens starter, right-hander Chris Lambert, looked to continue a solid month of June that had seen him go 2-1 with a 1.34 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. Since May 7 he had lowered his ERA from 7.18 to 4.17.

Indianapolis' lineup, however, got the better of Lambert on Tuesday. He pitched five innings and gave up six earned runs on 10 hits, with six strikeouts and one walk while not figuring in the decision, a 9-7 Toledo victory.

The decision went to 24-year-old righty Jay Sborz. The 6-4 Washington, D.C., native earned his first IL victory when he came on in relief of Lambert.

Sborz, who was 1-2 with a 2.52 ERA at Double-A Erie before being called up this week, pitched two scoreless innings and struck out three to earn the win.

DOT, DOT, DOT: Toledo got good production from its 3-4-5 hitters in June. Thomas had a .373 batting average (25-for-67), while Brent Clevlen hit .312 (29-for-93) and Larish hit .274 (20-for-73).

Dlugach extended his hitting streak to 13 games in Tuesday night's win. He raised his average to .276 after going 2-for-4 at Indianapolis. Clevlen had his seven-game hit streak broken in last Sunday's 2-1 loss at Indianapolis. Since then he has gone 0-for-7 with three strikeouts and one walk ...

Hessman's two-run double on Monday moved him into fourth place on the Mud Hens' all-time RBI list. He already holds the modern era record by a 332-233 margin over former Toledo slugger Scott Ullger. Bobby Veach is the team's all-time RBI leader, with 388 ...

Second baseman Sizemore has been selected as the Tigers' representative at the 2009 Futures Game. Sizemore is batting .311 with six doubles, one homer and seven RBI in 13 games with the Hens following a June 15 promotion from Erie. Ramirez was the Tigers' Futures Game rep last season. The 2009 Futures Game will be played Sunday, July 12 in St. Louis. The game features some of the top prospects in the minor leagues, who will square off in a game that pits a U.S. team against the World squad ...

Catcher Dane Sardinha hit his first home run in more than a year on June 25, in the Mud Hens' 4-2 win over Durham at Fifth Third Field. Sardinha's two-run shot to right field, with Hessman on first base, was his first homer since May 30, 2008 ... After winning five out of six from June 21-25, the Mud Hens lost four in a row from June 26-29 and scored 11 runs during that skid. They were outhit by a 41-31 margin.

Toledo, which finished 14-13 in June, has a .248 team batting average, tied for third-worst in the IL with Indianapolis. The Hens enter July with a 34-43 record in the IL West (7.5 games behind Louisville) but have nine of their next 11 games at home before the Triple-A All-Star break.

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