Toledo MLN: 2nd Half Start Mirrors 1st Half

After a long losing skid wrapped up the first half of the season, the Mud Hens hoped to take advantage of three days off around the All-Star break. Unfortunately, it was more of the same in the four games after the break, with Toledo going 1-3 over that stretch.

The pitching that had been an issue for much of the stretch of Toledo's struggles continued to be so post All-Star break. In four games, the Hens yielded 27 runs, or nearly seven runs per game. And while defense had been a problem at times, it wasn't this past week, as just one run was chalked up as unearned.

The biggest blemish of the week belonged to Billy Buckner, who continues his struggles since being acquired from the Diamondbacks. In the most recent start, Buckner was unable to make it out of the first inning, recording just two outs while giving up nine runs.

Since being acquired, Buckner has made eight starts for the Mud Hens. That included a pair of outstanding starts in which he allowed a run in seven innings of work, followed up with no runs over eight innings of work. The talented Buckner seemed to be putting things together at his new home.

But his last four starts have had a couple of adequate starts (each 5 1/3 innings, 4 earned runs) sandwiched by a couple of disasters, allowing a combined 19 runs over just 3 1/3 innings.

The stuff is there with Buckner, but thus far he has been unable to put anything together as he remains extremely inconsistent. The Tigers will hope that working with Toledo pitching coach A. J. Sager can help Buckner work through some of his issues, as when he's on, he has the stuff to be a big league starting pitcher.

One player that has had a nice showing post All-Star break has been third baseman Jeff Larish. Larish has gone 7-for-17 since the beginning of the second half, good for a .412 average. Larish has also supplied power with that impressive averaging, belting a home run and adding three more doubles. With the recent tear, Larish is pushing his OPS near .900, sitting at .874.

Larish has proven capable of holding down the hot corner defensively, while bringing the same potent bat he's possessed since the Tigers snagged him out of Arizona State.

Larish still struggles hitting left-handers (.195 average and just eight of his 34 extra base hits) and is likely reached his peak as a player; a patient left-handed hitter that possesses some power and can provide respectable defense at either corner infield spot.

(Ed. Note: Below paragraph added after it was announced that Tigers' third baseman Brandon Inge broke his hand)

With the recent injury to Inge, Larish becomes a likely possibility to be the team's part-time replacement at third base. If the Tigers elect to go with someone besides Larish (likely second baseman Scott Sizemore while shifting Carlos Guillen to third base), it will likely put the writing on the wall for Larish with regard to his future with the Tigers. However, Larish could provide the Tigers an excellent left-handed bat while having defensive relief in Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly available.

After wrapping up a four game set with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Mud Hens move on to face Pawtucket for four games before returning home to begin an eight game homestand.

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