THREE THINGS I THINK: 1. Avoiding the IL’s worst record this season won’t be easy. The Mud Hens begin this week tied with Gwinnett at 57-79, and Toledo has four games against West Division champ Indianapolis. I think it will take at least a .500 finish to avoid the basement. 2. LHP Blaine Hardy is turning heads as a starter. Hardy was named IL pitcher of the week thanks to 16 shutout innings, including a complete-game one-hitter. It’s impossible to not notice a 1.89 ERA in eight starts with the Hens. 3. There still are a few races worth watching. One is the IL’s RBI race, where Danny Dorn is tied for first place with 81 RBIs. Another is the doubles race, where Nick Castellanos has 36 and needs three to tie the Toledo single-season record.
WHO’S HOT: 2B Hernan Perez has hit .349 with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored in his last 10 games. Perez is hitless in his last seven at-bats, though. … IF Argenis Diaz has batted .346 in his last eight games with four RBIs and three runs scored. … LHP Blaine Hardy is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA in five August starts, having allowed just 21 hits and 10 walks while fanning 26 in 31.2 innings. … RHP Jon Link has thrown well in his last two starts, allowing nine hits and two walks as well as just two earned runs in 11 innings.
WHO’S NOT: While OF Nick Castellanos has batted just .233 in his last 10 games, he has produced three home runs, six RBIs and four runs scored. … 1B Jordan Lennerton has hit just .129 in his last nine contests, although he does have a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. … OF Ben Guez has batted just .107 in his last eight games and has struck out 14 times in that span. … RHP Jair Jurrjens has lost his last two starts by allowing 11 hits and five walks in 12.2 innings. Jurrjens is 0-3 with a 7.18 ERA in five starts with the Hens. … RHP Jose Ortega has suffered a loss in two of his last three appearances, giving up five hits and four walks in 2.2 innings. Ortega has a 4.50 ERA in eight August appearances, which has lifted his season’s ERA to 4.50 for the Hens.
THE WEEK AHEAD: The Mud Hens play games at Indianapolis Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 26-27, before returning to Toledo for the final four home games of the season. The Hens host West Division champ Indianapolis on Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 28-29, with both games starting at 6:30 p.m. Then Toledo hosts Columbus at Fifth Third Field on Friday-Saturday, Aug. 30-31, in two games starting at 7 p.m. The Mud Hens finish the season with games at Columbus Sunday-Monday, Sept. 1-2.
SCOUTING INDIANAPOLIS: The Indians are 77-59 overall and already have clinched the IL’s West Division title. They are 10 games in front of second-place Columbus and 20 games ahead of Toledo. The Indians won the first nine meetings of these two teams and hold a 13-4 advantage in the season’s series. The Tribe has hit .250 against the Hens this year; leading the way has been Ivan DeJesus with a .405 batting average and 10 RBIs. Also hitting well against Toledo has been OF Brett Carroll with a .306 mark, two home runs and eight RBIs. The pitching staff has been the key to Indy’s success against the Hens, posting a 3.12 ERA in 17 contests. RHP Brandon Cumpton is 2-0 but has a 5.51 ERA against Toledo, but the bullpen has been especially strong: closer Vic Black is 1-0 with five saves and a 0.84 ERA, while Duke Welker is 2-0 and has allowed just three hits in eight shutout innings.
SCOUTING COLUMBUS: The Clippers are 67-69 overall and are in second place in the IL’s West Division, 10 games behind first-place Indianapolis but seven games ahead of the Mud Hens. The Mud Hens have won 10 of the first 18 meetings of these two teams. Among the Columbus players who have hit well against Toledo this season are 1B Matt LaPorta, who batted .294 with two homers and four RBIs in four games, and OF Cord Phelps, who has hit .304 with seven RBIs in six games versus the Hens. Columbus has a 4.20 ERA against Toledo. One pitcher to watch is closer Preston Guilmet, who has five saves and a 2.25 ERA in seven appearances against the Hens.
NEWS WORTH NOTING: The Mud Hens enter the week in fourth place in the International League’s West Division, 20 games behind first-place Indianapolis. Toledo now trails second-place Columbus by 10 games and is seven games behind Louisville in third . … The Hens “tragic” number to clinch fourth place in the West Division is two, meaning any two Toledo wins or Louisville losses will doom the Hens to last place. … The Mud Hens need to win three of their final eight games to reach the 60-win plateau. The last Toledo team that did not win 60 contests was the 2000 squad that went 55-86, the third year in a row the Hens didn’t reach 60 victories.