Hens starting pitcher Robbie Ray delivers a pitch against Pawtucket. Ray struggled, giving up eight earned runs in the game. Blade/Jetta Fraser
Tigers fans viewed Robbie Ray’s start for the Mud Hens on Sunday night as a final audition for a potential return to Detroit for a start when the Tigers play a doubleheader next Saturday.
If it was an audition, well, things could not have gone worse for the 22-year-old left-hander.
Ray did not survive the fifth inning against Pawtucket, eventually surrendering eight earned runs. The three relievers who followed Ray also struggled, and the Hens suffered a 13-8 loss at Fifth Third field.
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“I had command issues, and I didn’t have my best stuff,” Ray said. “I’m still working on my curveball; it’s getting better and better every day, but it’s still a work in progress.
“I fell behind a few hitters, and when you do that hitters are going to be comfortable — and hit the ball.”
Ray used a double play to get out of the first inning, but he wasn’t as lucky in the second as the Red Sox pounded out four straight two-out hits for a pair of runs.
A caught stealing helped Ray in the third, but a three-hit fourth produced three more runs. In the fifth Pawtucket’s Alex Hassan homered and Ray gave up a walk and a double before departing.
Reliever Jose Ortega gave up a two-run single that saddled Ray with eight runs, then Ortega gave up another run-scoring hit to blemish his own line.
“I saw a young pitcher who is trying to add a breaking ball,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish said of Ray. “Unfortunately for him, I’m seeing him shortening his stride and [the breaking ball] affecting his other pitches.
“He’s short of a young colt having trouble getting it all in synch right now.”
After the contest the Mud Hens pitching brain trust held a closed-door meeting in manager Larry Parrish’s office for roughly an hour.
The probable topic of conversation was which Mud Hen would be promoted to Detroit on Saturday to pitch against Cleveland in the second game of a day-night twinbill. Entering Sunday’s contest the likely candidate was Ray, but no official decision was announced after the game.
“[The talk] doesn’t affect me much,” Ray said. “I still have to go out there and try to get a win for my team.
“I don’t really pay attention to anything going on up there unless I’m up there.”
Evan Reed and Derek Hankins gave up two runs and four hits in one inning of work behind Ortega.
Only Justin Miller, who allowed one hit in two scoreless innings, shut down Pawtucket, which finished with 22 hits — including seven doubles and a home run — and also took advantage of four walks.
Carlos Rivero went 5-for-6 with two doubles while Deven Marrero finished with six RBIs thanks to a 4-for-5 night.
The struggles of the Hens pitching staff wasted a strong offensive performance that saw Toledo bash 16 hits and score at least one run in seven different innings, including each of the last five.
Hernan Perez and Danny Worth each had four hits to lead the Mud Hens, while Tyler Collins had a home run and four RBIs.
“We didn’t have good starting pitching, and outside of Miller we didn’t get good work from the bullpen, either,” Parrish said. “When you score eight runs, you’re supposed to win.”
NOTES: Mike Hessman was not in the lineup Sunday because of an infection on his left knee. At this point no decision was made on Hessman’s status for the Triple-A All-Star Game. … Ezequiel Carrera had two hits to extend his current hitting streak to 15 games, which is tied for the longest for a Mud Hen this season. … Jordan Lennerton had two doubles to extend his current hit streak to eight in a row, but James McCann went 0-for-4 to snap his eight-game hit streak.