Toledo’s Robbie Ray throws a pitch Monday night against Gwinnett. He surrendered seven hits in five scoreless innings but did not walk a batter to get his third win of the season. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
When Robbie Ray was asked if he was listening to the gossip about a potential promotion to Detroit, the Mud Hens lefty had a quick answer.
“[I pay attention to] none of it,” he said. “I just come out every fifth day and try to get a win for my team. I don’t worry about what’s going on up there.
PHOTO GALLERY: Hens shutout Gwinnet
“I hear about it, but I just push it aside and work on what I need to do that day to get better.”
Ray certainly was able to ignore the whispers Monday as he pitched the Hens to an 8-0 win over Gwinnett at Fifth Third Field.
Ray shut out the Braves on seven hits in five innings, striking out five without walking a batter. It marked the second straight game the 22-year-old lefty, the fifth-youngest player in the International League, did not give up a run.
“I was trying to mix my pitches a little more than last time,” Ray said. “That’s my focus right now, being able to throw my off-speed [pitches] for strikes.
“So I tried to mix it up a little more than I did last time and keep everything in the zone.”
Still, Ray relied heavily on a fastball that sat in the 91-93 mile-per-hour range and touched 94. Of his 89 pitches, 58 were fastballs.
“We’re not going to go away from that; my fastball is my dominant pitch,” Ray said. “We just tried to mix in other pitches a little more.”
What Ray did well was throw strikes early in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 21 batters he faced and getting ahead of six hitters 0-2. He reached a 3-ball count just two times.
“On a day like this, batters don’t want to get in the box and hit,” the Tennessee native said. “So I tried to go [inside] more with them and make them uncomfortable.
“Also, I tried to attack because you know hitters are going to swing early.”
The result was impressive as Ray allowed just one runner to advance as far as third base to win his third game and lower his ERA to 1.59 for the season.
“He didn’t throw many pitches belt-high,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “His fastball was up at the letters, then down at the knees.
“He’s doing a whale of a job right now.”
Casey Crosby relieved Ray and nearly pitched three scoreless innings, retiring eight of the first nine Braves he faced. Melvin Mercedes came on to get the final out in the eighth, then threw a 1-2-3 ninth to record his third save.
Meanwhile, the Toledo offense took advantage of five walks and four Gwinnett errors to score twice in the first inning, two more runs in the fourth, and four times in the eighth.
In the first inning, Ezequiel Carrera laid down a bunt in front of home plate, then raced around to third on two throwing errors by the Braves.
Hernan Perez followed with an RBI single to left, and he moved to third on a single by Tyler Collins before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Mike Hessman.
In the fourth, Trevor Crowe singled before walks to James McCann and Jordan Lennerton loaded the bases with no one out. Daniel Fields and Brandon Douglas each hit sacrifice flies to score the runs.
Toledo got a fourth sacrifice fly off the bat of McCann in the eighth.
“That’s a guy doing his job with a runner on third base and less than two outs,” Parrish said of the four sacrifice flies. “And in this condition, that’s about all you’re going to get.”
The Hens also strung together three hits and benefited from another Gwinnett error and two walks in the four-run eighth-inning rally.
“We did a good job of making contact,” Parrish said. “We were aggressive, and we stayed aggressive throughout the game.
“When we got a good pitch to hit, we were swinging.”
NOTES: The Mud Hens added RHP Chad Smith to the roster before Monday’s game. Smith was 1-0 with a save and a 2.08 ERA in seven relief appearances with Double-A Erie. … Fields returned to the lineup after missing two games after he was hit on the hand by a pitch Friday.
Toledo's Hernan Perez steals third base against Gwinnett's Edward Salcedo during the first inning.