Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Starting Nine: 9 Notable Facts Entering the PawSox-Mud Hens Series

After a league-wide off-day, the Pawtucket Red Sox will return home Thursday for a four-game set with the Toledo Mud Hens. By Sunday night, the teams will have completed their season series all within one calendar month, the Hens having taken three out of four at Fifth Third Field three weeks ago.

Although the Hens are in the middle of the International League pack with an exact .500 record (23-23) and are reeling on a 3-7 cold spell, they boast the circuit’s best road record at 11-7. The PawSox will counteract that with a league-leading 14-6 transcript at McCoy Stadium.

Here are nine other pregame pop-ups worth noting ahead of Thursday night’s first pitch.

·         Toledo boasts two of the top nine International League batting average leaders in outfielder Justin Henry (.322) and designated hitter Brad Eldred (.304).

·         Mud Hens starter Thad Weber is seventh in the league with a 2.54 earned run average, though he brooked the blame for Toledo’s only loss during Pawtucket’s visit May 1-4. But odds are the PawSox will not be dealing with him in this series as he just threw six innings and took the loss in Toledo’s last outing on Tuesday at Syracuse.

·         Only the Louisville Bats, who have consumed one more game off their schedule, have seen more of their batters strike out (385) than Toledo (373). But the Hens also lead the league with 200 walks.

·         On the other side of the ball, the Toledo pitching staff has allowed the most opposing walks to date with 211. Whether it is walks-for or walks-against, no other I.L. tenant has broken the 200 plateau in this category yet.

·         The Mud Hens’ baserunning will also be worth watching in the top half of every inning. They lead the league in total stealing attempts with 92 and have succeeded on a whopping 71 of those. Centerfielder Quintin Berry (19), shortstop Audrey Ciriaco (11) and left fielder Matt Young (10) are the team’s grand larceny ringleaders.

·         Although he only appeared in two games, Jose Iglesias led the PawSox offense in their previous series against the Mud Hens. He batted 4-for-7 with a double, a triple, two RBIs, two walks and two runs-scored.

·        Ross Ohlendorf and Doug Mathis, Pawtucket’s tentatively slated starter in the opener and finale, respectively, will both try to redeem a loss from their road bout with Toledo. Justin Germano figures to toe the rubber on Friday looking for his second straight win at the Hens’ expense.

·         The Sox are 5-7 versus the I.L. West so far, having split each of eight scheduled meetings with the Columbus Clippers. They have yet to crack open their season series with Indianapolis and Louisville.

·         The Mud Hens went 3-1 in their annual four-night stays in Pawtucket in both 2011 and 2010. The PawSox last won their season series with Toledo in 2009, when they went 5-3, a record they can match for this year with a sweep this weekend.