Toledo MLN: Road Woes Mystify Hens

If there is one thing that has come to define the 2009 version of the Toledo Mud Hens, it has been offensive hot streaks and offensive slumps. Perhaps no disparity is greater than the Hens home offensive numbers vs. their road offensive number. It is a problem that has the team searching for answers.

"I wish I knew what the reason was that we are hitting better here," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "Obviously you are more familiar with your surroundings at home, but the difference in the numbers is baffling to me."

Comparing the offensive stats, Toledo is hitting the cover off the ball at Fifth Third Field. Through 61 games at home, the team is hitting .291, scoring 302 runs, with 68 HR, and 285 RBI. Comparing that to the team's road numbers, in 62 games, the Hens are hitting just .236, scoring, 241 runs, with 51 HR, and 227 RBI.

"You expect a little of that with the road numbers. You know a 20 point drop off in batting average is more acceptable, but 60 points is a different story," Parrish said. "I'm just not sure what is causing it."

The Hens most recent road trip was a perfect example of the problem. Prior to last Sunday's seven run outburst, Toledo only scored nine runs during the trip, which was an average of just 1.5 runs per game. That minimal offensive output led to just a 2-4 record for the road trip. Compare that to the most recent home stand from August 1 -August 9, Toledo averaged 7 runs a game, to lead to a 7-1 record on that home stand.

"I am not sure what the issue is either," Toledo second baseman Scott Sizemore said. "I know we try hard, but it is something we have struggled with since I got here."

Sizemore, coincidentally, has the best road batting average for the team, although he has only played in 28 road games for the Hens. He is hitting .315, with 17 runs, 3 HR, and 15 RBI. Outfielder Brent Clevlen has the best road statistics for a player who has been with Toledo all season. Clevlen is hitting .296 in 213 at bats with 20 runs scored, 4 HR, and 22 RBI. Mike Hessman has the worst road average on the team, hitting just .180 in 200 at bats away from Fifth Third Field.

Lugo is Lights Out

Redemption is sweet, just ask RHP Ruddy Lugo. Previously Lugo had a 14.29 ERA in two outings against the Clippers this season. But last night he showed Columbus just what he was capable of. In fact, Lugo has been showing everyone, when healthy, what he can do.

"Ruddy has been solid for us all year. He has done a good job for us. He went through a rough stretch when he had some arm and shoulder issues. But recently has been showing teams how good he can be when his arm is right," Parrish said.

Lugo has been great over his past seven starts only allowing seven runs and six earned runs over 30 and 2/3 innings. He has 25 K over that stretch as well posting a record of 6-0.

"I owe it all to our trainer Matt Rankin. He helped me to get back and be healthy, and I can throw pain free now. I can throw the pitches when I want now, and I just could not do that earlier this year," Lugo said.

The Brooklyn, NY native moved his record for the year to 11-8 during his last start against the aforementioned Clippers. Lugo pitched six solid innings allowing just three runs, two of which were earned. Lugo also struck out three.

"I owed them some from the last two times when they got me. I could throw my full arsenal this past time out, and it was nice to get the monkey off my back against Columbus," Lugo said.

Rehab Update

Add Dontrelle Willis to the list of Tiger pitchers rehabbing with Toledo. Willis is expected to start Wednesday for Toledo on the road against Columbus. The southpaw was supposed to start Monday against Columbus but was scratched due to an unknown reason.

"Things have been up in the air with him. We were kind of waiting on him now to make a decision about whether he was able to go or not for us," Parrish said.

In a previous rehab stint, Willis was 0-2 for the Hens with a 3.35 ERA. The lefty is trying to work his way back from an anxiety disorder that has plagued him for the past two seasons.

Both Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman have had success during their most recent outings. Robertson had his best start since his rehab began August 4. Robertson, who is still on a limited pitch count, threw three shut out innings, striking out three against Louisville. Robertson's control still is a work in progress. In 43 pitches, 26 of Robertson's pitches were strikes.

Bonderman put in a solid inning of relief his last time out, after four rocky appearances. The right hander seemed to put some things together on the mound against Columbus this past Monday. Bonderman pitched one inning, allowing only one hit and struck out one. Bonderman threw just 17 pitches, 12 of which were for strikes.

Hens News and Notes

- The Toledo Mud Hens now are tied with the Durham Bulls for most home runs in the International League. The Hens and Bulls are tied with 120 HR each. Toledo smashed four home runs on Monday against the Clippers to tie for the lead with Durham. Mike Hessman hit his team leading 18 and 19 home runs during the brief two game home stand too. The Hens have also hit the most home runs in August, hitting 25 bombs this month. The next closest team in the IL is Norfolk who has hit 17 HR this month.

- Nate Bump continues to roll along since signing with the Hens from Camden of the Independent League on July 4. He is now 6-1 with 2.82 ERA in eight starts with Toledo. In his last start, Bump pitched seven innings giving up only one earned run and tallied 5 strike outs.

- Jeff Frazier's grand slam for Toledo, in their 8-4 win over Columbus on Monday, was the team's second of the season. The first grand slam of the year was courtesy of Mike Hessman, who hit one on April 21 against Indianapolis.

- Four seems to be the magic number for Toledo. When the Hens score four runs or more in a game, the team record is 51-13 this season. However when the team scores fewer than four runs in a game, their record is 10-49 this year.

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