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Hens roster includes prized prospects - Toledo Blade

The latest sign that the Mud Hens' 2011 season is about to start arrived Monday when the team announced its official roster.

And there are some interesting faces that will begin the season in Toledo, including several highly regarded left-handed pitchers.

The Hens' starting rotation will include lefties Andy Oliver, one of the Tigers' top pitching prospects; Charlie Furbush, who rocketed through three levels last season; Duane Below, Detroit's minor league pitcher of the year in 2007; and Adam Wilk, who nearly made the Tigers' opening day roster this spring.

Three members of the Mud Hens' bullpen also begin the season on Detroit's 40-man roster: Alberto Alburquerque, Jose Ortega, and Robbie Weinhardt.

Ortega is one of four players who will begin the season on the disabled list. The others are pitchers Brooks Brown and Luis Marte as well as catcher Omir Santos.

With Santos on the DL, Max St-Pierre will share the catching duties with John Murrian.

Toledo's infield should be familiar to local fans as it returns Ryan Strieby at first base, Scott Sizemore at second, shortstop Cale Iorg, and Danny Worth, who should see action at several positions, including third base.

The outfield also will have several familiar faces, including Timo Perez, who played here in Toledo in 2007-08.

Also on the roster are outfielders Clete Thomas and Andy Dirks, both of whom played in Toledo last year.

— John Wagner

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Hens roster includes prized prospects - Toledo Blade

The latest sign that the Mud Hens' 2011 season is about to start arrived Monday when the team announced its official roster.

And there are some interesting faces that will begin the season in Toledo, including several highly regarded left-handed pitchers.

The Hens' starting rotation will include lefties Andy Oliver, one of the Tigers' top pitching prospects; Charlie Furbush, who rocketed through three levels last season; Duane Below, Detroit's minor league pitcher of the year in 2007; and Adam Wilk, who nearly made the Tigers' opening day roster this spring.

Three members of the Mud Hens' bullpen also begin the season on Detroit's 40-man roster: Alberto Alburquerque, Jose Ortega, and Robbie Weinhardt.

Ortega is one of four players who will begin the season on the disabled list. The others are pitchers Brooks Brown and Luis Marte as well as catcher Omir Santos.

With Santos on the DL, Max St-Pierre will share the catching duties with John Murrian.

Toledo's infield should be familiar to local fans as it returns Ryan Strieby at first base, Scott Sizemore at second, shortstop Cale Iorg, and Danny Worth, who should see action at several positions, including third base.

The outfield also will have several familiar faces, including Timo Perez, who played here in Toledo in 2007-08.

Also on the roster are outfielders Clete Thomas and Andy Dirks, both of whom played in Toledo last year.

— John Wagner

It's going to be interesting to see how this team does. I think these Mudhens may be better than some of those early 2K Tiger teams.

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It's going to be interesting to see how this team does. I think these Mudhens may be better than some of those early 2K Tiger teams.

What's really nice from my perspective is that this team is much stronger in actual "homegrowns" than in past Hens seasons.

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Omir Santos played last night, in the LFT game against Southeaster University last night, he looked good at the plate, he was DH last night.

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Hens' Duane Below feeling strong

Britton native ready to go for Mud Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Below-feeling-strong.jpg

Duane Below

But one pitcher who may fill an important role for the Hens comes from nearby Britton, Mich., located roughly 35 miles northwest of Fifth Third Field.

Left-hander Duane Below will be a part of the Toledo rotation this season. He will watch as the Mud Hens open the season at Louisville Thursday at 6:35 p.m., then make his first start of the year Sunday in the series finale against the Bats.

Below said he looks forward to the opportunity to pitch for the Hens this season after being invited to his first major league spring training camp with Detroit over the past month after previous seasons of being a part of the minor league camps.

"I went into [spring training] excited because it was my first big-league camp," he said. "I was going to work hard and, if I made the team, that would be a plus. If not, I was looking forward to being in Toledo.

"When I got cut, I knew that was coming. So I stayed positive, worked hard in minor-league camp, and I'm here in Toledo."

Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager is excited about the opportunity to work with the talented 25-year-old.

"The first thing you notice is that he's left-handed and has a good arm," Sager said. "He's got good secondary stuff -- his fastball and breaking ball are major league quality pitches -- and his change-up is coming along.

"Like a lot of guys here, we're looking for consistency and command of the strike zone. It won't be lack of stuff that keeps him from moving forward."

Below's best year was in 2007 when he posted a 13-5 record and 2.97 ERA in 26 starts for Lo-A West Michigan. Below led the Midwest League in strikeouts that season, fanning 160 in 145.2 innings, and was named the Tigers' minor league pitcher of the year.

The next season he was 8-7 with a 4.46 ERA in 27 games for Hi-A Lakeland, but in 2009 he pitched in just eight games, and had Tommy John surgery. Last season he returned for Double-A Erie, but because of the surgery he was limited to no more than 75 pitches in a game or 30 pitches in an inning.

As a result, it was hard for him to cover the five innings necessary to claim a victory. That was a major reason Below finished with a 7-12 record and 4.93 ERA.

"Mentally, that was tough," he said. "During a game I would know I was getting close to the pitch count, so I would try to get outs quick so I could stay in the game. It kind of took me away from my game plan.

"This year I'm excited because I'm good to go."

Below said he is a different pitcher than he was earlier in his career.

"I think I'm farther along than I was in '07," he said. "I think I'm more disciplined now, and I think I can make an adjustment faster than I was back in '07.

"I've learned the game more, understand the things I'm trying to do, and grow and get better."

When he was younger, Below came to Mud Hen games at Skeldon Stadium, the Hens' previous home. Now he said he looks forward to pitching in his new "home."

"I have a sister who lives in Toledo and has season tickets," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people -- I'm sure some family, classmates, and teammates will come to some games.

"I think this will be an exciting year."

Hens' Duane Below feeling strong - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens bats come alive in eighth

Ryan-Strieby.jpg

Hens' Ryan Strieby cracks a three-run home run to give Toledo an 11-4 lead in the eight inning. THE COURIER-JOURNAL/SCOTT UTTERBACK Enlarge

LOUISVILLE -- A seven-run eighth inning by the Mud Hens broke a 4-4 tie as Toledo went on to win its opening-day contest 11-6 Thursday over host Louisville in front of 12,680 fans.

Danny Worth's double with one out in the key stanza scored Scott Thorman for the go-ahead run, which opened a floodgate in which 10 Mud Hens went to the plate, scoring three runs with two outs.

Cale Iorg scored the eventual game-winning run after Scott Sizemore was safe on an error made by Bats' right fielder Jeremy Hermida.

Louisville added two runs in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Fu-Te Ni (1-0).

He pitched 1⅓ innings in relief of starter Andrew Oliver, striking out two while allowing four hits and two earned runs.

Oliver went six innings giving up two earned runs on four hits while striking out five.

The Bats' Daniel Ray Herrera (0-1) shouldered the mound loss, giving up two earned runs on seven hits, including a two-run home run by Toledo's Timo Perez in the fifth inning to give the Mud Hens a 2-0 lead.

Perez was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, including a double and a single along with his homer.

The Hens' (1-0) were also led offensively by Andy Dirks, who was 4-for-5 with two RBIs, including a solo shot in the seventh inning.

Danny Worth doubled three times and drove in a run in the offensive barrage for Toledo.

The Mud Hens took leads of 2-0 and 4-2 before exploding for the seven runs in the eighth.

Mud Hens bats come alive in eighth - Toledo Blade

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Bats even up opening series with Mud Hens

mud-hens-4-9.jpg

The members of the Mud Hens worked out at Fifth Third Field this week.

They lost to Louisville on Friday. THE BLADE Enlarge | Photo Reprints

LOUSIVILLE — The Toledo Mud Hens were not able to silence the offense of the Louisville Bats Friday night at Louisville Slugger Field as they dropped the second game of a three game series Friday 5-3.

The Bats plated runs in the fifth and sixth to tie the game and eventually took a 4-3 lead in the sixth when a fly ball that right fielder Andy Dirks lost in the twilight sky dropped in front of the wall.

Toledo — which led 3-1 at one point in the game — threatened in the ninth when Argenis Diaz advanced to second on defensive indifference after singling with two outs however, Cale Iorg flied out to center field to end the game.

Second baseman Scott Sizemore was a triple shy of the cycle after going 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. Reliever Chris Oxspring (0-1) was tagged with the loss after allowing three runs to score in three innings of work.

The Mud Hens opened up the scoring in the top of first when desginated hitter Scott Thorman hit a line drive that plated Sizemore. Center fielder Clete Thomas doubled to start the second and was almost stranded after Diaz struck out and catcher John Murrian lined out. However, Sizemore came through and doubled home Thomas to push the Hens lead up to 2-0.

Bats even up opening series with Mud Hens - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens can't get timely hits

Louisville wins pitching duel

LOUISVILLE — The Toledo Mud Hens fell to the Louisville Bats Saturday night 2-1 in a pitchers' duel in front of 8,968 at Louisville Slugger Field.

Left fielder Clay Timpner was 1-for-4 and had the Hens only RBI of the night.

Left-handed starting pitcher Charlie Furbush (0-1) was saddled with the loss after tossing 5 1/3 innings while allowing just two earned runs.

Furbush battled a bit of wildness in the first inning and allowed the Bats' their only two runs of the game, scoring via a wild pitch and a RBI double, respectively.

Toledo cut the Louisville lead to one as Timpner laced a two-out single to score third baseman Danny Worth.

The Hens threatened to tie the game with second baseman Argenis Diaz moving to third on Timpners single, but shortstop Cale Iorg's strikeout ended the inning.

A ninth inning double by right fielder Andy Dirks was followed by a strikeout by designated hitter Ryan Strieby. Dirks — who has a hit in all three games this season and is currently 6-for-13 on the year — advanced to third on a fielder's choice by first baseman Scott Thorman.

Worth worked a two-out walk, but center fielder Clete Thomas popped out to end the game.

The Mud Hens were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Hens bullpen was solid as Matt Hoffman, Brendan Wise, and Al Alburquerque worked 2 2/3 innings combined, striking out three and they did not allow a run to score.

The Mud Hens and the Louisville Bats end their four game series Sunday with a 2:05 p.m. contest.

Mud Hens can't get timely hits - Toledo Blade

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Bats silence Hens

LOUISVILLE — The Toledo Mud Hens dropped the finale of their four game series against the Louisville Bats, 5-1, Sunday at Louisville Slugger Field. Mud Hens starter Duane Below (0-1) took the loss in his Triple-A debut after allowing four runs and seven hits over four innings. Toledo could only muster four hits against three Louisville pitchers.

Former Mud Hen Dontrelle Willis (1-0) started for the Bats and was masterful, keeping his former club off the scoreboard by allowing just three hits and striking out five over his six innings of work.

Louisville's first four runs of the contest came on home runs. Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco launched solo shots in the bottom of the second and fourth respectively. Kris Negron also went deep with a two-run home run in the fourth as well.

The Mud Hens responded in the top of the seventh when first baseman Ryan Strieby singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Strieby was then brought home when second baseman Argenis Diaz singled to make the score 5-1, Louisville.

Toledo would not score again and went down in order in the eighth and ninth innings to end the game.

The Mud Hens will travel to Indianapolis to take on the Indians in a quick two game series. Monday and Tuesday's contests will start at 7:05 p.m. and 11:05 a.m. respectively. After an off day on Wednesday, the Hens will square off against Columbus Thursday in the home opening double header at Fifth Third Field. Game one is scheduled for 4 p.m. with Game 2 starting 20-25 minutes after the conclusion of game one.

NOTES: Ramon Garcia and Zach Simons were solid out of the bullpen for the Mud Hens. ... Together they worked the game's final four innings, struck out four, and allowed just one run to cross the plate. ... 2B Scott Sizemore went 0-for-2 with two walks after being given the day off Sunday. ... Toledo was just 1-for-2 with runners in scoring position. ... Andy Dirks went 1-for-4 and leads the Hens with a .412 batting average

Bats silence Hens - Toledo Blade

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Hens fall to 1-4 after losing at Indianapolis

Enlarge INDIANAPOLIS -- The Mud Hens fell to 1-4 on the season after losing 5-1 Monday night in the series opener against the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field.

Indianapolis won its first game of the season as Rudy Owens made his Triple-A debut on the mound. He allowed seven hits and one run in seven innings, striking out five and walking none.

Toledo's Adam Wilk also looked impressive in his Triple-A debut, giving up just one earned run in 5⅓ innings.

Center fielder Clete Thomas got the Mud Hens on the scoreboard first when he belted a solo home run in the second inning.

Brendon Wise relieved Wilk in the sixth and struggled to find the strike zone.

Indianapolis had the most unusual of innings when they scored their first four runs without the ball ever leaving the infield. Using infield hits, errors and walks, they scored all five of their runs in the sixth.

The Mud Hen bullpen regained their composure after that, giving up no more runs.

Thomas, Timo Perez and Argenis Diaz each went 2-for-4 for Toledo.

Gorkys Hernandez and Alex Presley each went 3-for-4 for the Indians.

The two teams meet again this morning at 11:05.

Hens fall to 1-4 after losing at Indianapolis - Toledo Blade

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Hens beat Indianapolis 4-2

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

oliver-hens.jpg

A solid outing by Mud Hens pitcher Andy Oliver helped with the 4-2 win Tuesday over Indianapolis. THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Photo Reprints INDIANAPOLIS

The Mud Hens finished their six-game season-opening road trip the way they stared it: winning a game thanks in large part to a good effort by starter Andy Oliver.

Toledo earned a split of its two-game series with Indianapolis — and snapped a four-game losing streak — by claiming a 4-2 victory Tuesday over the Indians.

Oliver allowed just three hits and one earned run in six strong innings to earn his first win of the season. The lefty struck out eight and walked one.

Toledo got on the board in the second inning when Scott Thorman lined a 3-2 pitch by Indy starter Brian Burres over the right-field fence for his first home run of the second.

The Hens added a run in the fifth when Clete Thomas slammed his second home run in as many days, a line drive down the right-field line off Burres.

Indianapolis got its only run off Oliver in the bottom of that inning when Josh Harrison homered, his first of the year.

The Mud Hens added two insurance runs with a two-out rally in the sixth. Scott Sizemore led off the inning with a walk, then stole second before moving to third on a groundout.

With two outs Ryan Strieby singled home Sizemore. Thorman singled Stieby to second, and Cale Iorg walked to load the bases.

Thomas then hit a hard grounder off the glove of Indians second baseman Pedro Ciriaco for an error that scored Strieby.

Indianapolis got a run back in the eighth off Hens reliever Fu-Te Ni. Gorkys Hernandez walked with two outs, then raced to third on a single by Chase d’Arnaud.

A wild throw by Iorg allowed Hernandez to score and d’Arnaud to reach second, but Ni struck out Alex Presley to end the threat.

In the ninth the Indians were able to bring the tying run to the plate thanks to a one-out double by Matt Hague, but Ni got a fly out and Zach Simons got the final out on a fly ball to earn his first save.

The Mud Hens have Wednesday off before opening the home schedule with a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Thursday against Columbus.

Hens beat Indianapolis 4-2 - Toledo Blade

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Clippers take pair of games from Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Cale-Iorg-and-Luke-Carlin.jpg

In game one, Cale Iorg, above gets caught trying to steal home by Clippers catcher Luke Carlin in Columbus' 1-0 victory. THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON

New Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin made his first day at Fifth Third Field a memorable one.

The Hens would like to forget the pair of losses they suffered as Columbus won by scores of 1-0 and 7-3 in front of 12,825 fans.

But late in the second game, Nevin injected some excitement into opening day, arguing a call at home plate before getting ejected by umpire Derek Crabill.

"I had to excite the fans a little bit -- let them know I'm here," Nevin said.

"As the manager, sometimes you have to do things that let the players know you have their backs. And I'll always be that way."

The ejection came on a play with the bases loaded and two outs. The Clippers' Paul Phillips lifted a soft liner that Hens shortstop Cale Iorg dropped near second base.

After the ball rolled away from Iorg, allowing one run to score, the shortstop picked it up and threw home to try and nab Jordan Brown.

Crabill called Brown safe, much to the displeasure of Toledo catcher John Murrian, and Nevin was ejected soon after he began arguing the call.

'"Sometimes you just need a spark," Nevin said. "My players were upset. I really couldn't see the play from the dugout, but when you see your players react that way, I'm going to protect them."

Phil-Nevin.jpg

Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin gets in a losing argument with umpire Derek Crabill. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The Hens' bats needed a spark Thursday, especially in the first game as Columbus starter Jeanmar Gomez shut them out on eight hits.

The closest the Hens came to scoring came in the fifth. With one out Iorg singled, then raced around to third on a hit-and-run grounder by Omir Santos.

But Santos took off for second on a 1-0 pitch to Scott Sizemore, and Iorg was thrown out at home trying to complete a double steal.

"We kind of got confused on the signs," Nevin said. "But I'll take the blame for that one.

"We've got a new guy [santos], and you need to go over the signs two or three times with a player, and I didn't do that.

"It was an honest mistake. But at the end of the day we had a chance to execute a play, and we didn't execute it. We got a late break off third base, and that made the difference between getting thrown out and sliding in safely."

The lack of offense ruined a fine start by the Hens' Thad Weber, who held Columbus in check on just three hits and three walks.

"Thad Weber pitched his butt off," Nevin said. "I'm really pleased with the way the guys in the rotation have thrown the ball and kept us in the game.

"Thad gave us six innings and only [allowed] one run, and I'll take that every day."

The only mistake Weber made came to Grady Sizemore, who was making a rehab start for the Clippers. In the third Weber fell behind 3-0, and after getting one strike, Sizemore pounded the next pitch over the fence for a home run.

"I was able to command the fastball pretty well," Weber said. "The breaking ball was pretty good, and I mixed in a few change-ups to keep them off [the fastball].

"Other than the one pitch and the three walks, I was pretty happy with it."

In the second game, the Hens jumped in front when Scott Sizemore led off with a single, moved to third on a single by Timo Perez, and scored on a groundout by Andy Dirks.

Columbus got that run back in the second off starter Chris Oxspring as Chad Huffman singled, stole second before Brown walked, then came home on a single by Phillips.

The Hens tacked on two more runs in the second. Three straight singles by Clay Timpner, Argenis Diaz and Murrian produced one run, and a fielder's choice groundout by Perez plated another.

Clay-Timpner.jpg

The crowd cheers a catch by outfielder Clay Timpner in the second game. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

But after that the Mud Hens struggled against the Clippers' bullpen as Carlton Smith and Zach Putnam each threw two scoreless innings, with Smith getting the win and Putnam the save.

Meanwhile, Columbus tied the game with two runs in the fourth thanks in large part to a two-run double by Luis Valbuena off reliever Zach Simons, then took the lead for good in the fifth when Ezequiel Carrera scored on a wild pitch by reliever Brendan Wise.

Things unraveled in the seventh when the Clippers loaded the bases with one out, then scored once on a fielder's choice and two more on Iorg's misplay.

When it was over, the bad news that the Hens lost twice was tempered by the good news that there still is a whole season of games left to play.

"It's early -- we're only eight games in," Weber said. "Obviously we'd like to be winning a little more right now.

"But this is a good ballclub, and we know we can play. This is a good team -- it's just a matter of putting it all together."

Clippers take pair of games from Hens - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens notch first home win of the season

BY RYAN AUTULLO

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

This one had little in common with the home opener.

Weather conditions were dreary, not sunny. The seats were mostly empty, fans either turned away by the threat of rain or perhaps exhausted from Thursday’s doubleheader. And then there was the absence of Grady Sizemore, the Cleveland Indians star having skipped town Friday to head back home.

The result was different too. After losing twice the day before, the Mud Hens put together a big seventh inning and held on for a 5-4 win over the Columbus Clippers Friday night at Fifth Third Field.

In winning, the Hens (3-6) avoided a sweep at home to start the year and Saturday will begin another three-game series with the Clippers in Columbus.

“Definitely big to get off on the right start here and get a win,” said starting pitcher Charlie Furbush, who did not factor into the decision. “Hopefully we’ll go to Columbus and get three more.”

The game turned in the Hens’ favor when Scott Sizemore knocked in two runs on a seventh-inning double, and Ryan Strieby followed three batters later with a RBI single. The three runs scored matched the three Columbus (6-3) put up in the top half of the inning.

“We’ve been looking for that big hit,” Hens manager Phil Nevin said.

Fu-Te Ni, the fourth of five pitchers used by the Hens, worked 1⅓ innings to pick up the win and improve his record to 2-0. Robbie Weinhardt (1⅓) earned his first save of the year after retiring the side in the ninth.

The game was delayed 30 minutes due to ominous conditions, although the weather cooperated for the most part. The crowd, though sparse, was announced at 6,206.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the top of the sixth inning when left fielder Timo Perez threw out Jason Kipnis at home to end the inning. Kipnis has above average speed, evidenced by his stealing second base earlier in the inning before advancing another base on a ground ball to third. But Perez, standing about midway between the warning track and the infield, was on target with his throw, and catcher Omir Santos did a good job of receiving the ball off a short hop and holding onto it as he applied the tag.

“I tried to throw it easy,” Perez said. “He’s a fast runner, but I was in good position.”

Nevin said the 36-year-old Perez no longer has the arm strength he once had, but he compensates for it with accuracy.

“For me, that was the play of the game there,” Nevin said. “[Momentum] started turning, you could sense it in the dugout. Timo’s emerging as a leader.”

The Indians’ Sizemore, who was expected to continue his rehabilitation assignment Friday night, returned to Cleveland instead. He’s expected to join the Clippers in Columbus sometime on Saturday.

Ryan Perry threw 1⅓ innings on his first day of a rehab assignment with the Hens. Perry, who has appeared in two games with the Tigers this season, allowed two runs — one earned — and allowed three hits.

The lefty Furbush was excellent to begin the game, recording six of his team’s first seven outs via strikeout. He was pulled after facing three batters in the fifth inning, finishing with one earned run, four walks, and six strikeouts.

“I was just in there battling, trying to keep my team in the ball game,” he said. “Luckily, we pulled it out.”

Mud Hens notch first home win of the season - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens early lead evaporates at Columbus

COLUMBUS — The Mud Hens saw an early 3-0 lead wiped away in a 10-4 loss to Columbus in the Clippers’ home opener at Huntington Park on Saturday.

Columbus scored at least two runs in four different innings to beat Toledo for the third time in four games.

The Hens scored a pair of runs in the first inning as Andy Dirks and Scott Sizemore both drew walks from Columbus starter Zach McAllister, and both moved up a base on a sacrifice by Timo Perez.

Dirks scored on a sacrifice fly by Scott Thorman, and Ryan Strieby’s two-out single brought Sizemore home.

The Hens’ Danny Worth led off the second with a double down the left-field line, then took third on Cale Iorg’s sacrifice before coming home on a sacrifice fly by Omir Santos.

Meanwhile Toledo starter Duane Below held the Clippers off the board until the fourth, when Columbus scored three times to tie the contest.

With one out Jason Kipnis and Jerad Head singled, and with two outs Paul Phillips doubled down the left-field line to score Kipnis and send Head to third.

Ezequiel Carrera followed with a single to left, and Phillips just beat the throw home to make the score 3-3.

The game stayed tied until the sixth, when the Clippers used a two-out, none-on rally to score twice off reliever Ramon Garcia and take the lead for good.

he two teams will play again at 1:05 p.m. Sunday in Columbus.

Mud Hens early lead evaporates at Columbus - Toledo Blade

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Clippers once again hand Hens a defeat

Wilk has strong outing for Toledo

The Columbus Clippers continued their strong 2011 start by defeating the Mud Hens 6-2.

The Clippers, the Indians’ farm team, are now 8-3 on the season, while Toledo dropped to 3-8.

Toledo starting pitcher Adam Wilk was the Mud Hens’ star of game, giving up only two earned runs in 5⅔ innings of work.

Sunday’s game began with a whacky top of the second inning. With two outs and no runners on, Toledo scored the first two runs of the game without recording a hit.

Toledo pieced together two runs with the help of three walks. The Hens then used their speed to pick up three stolen bases.

Then, a comedy of mistakes made by the Columbus infield, including two errors and defensive interference, led to Toledo scoring its first two runs.

The craziness carried into the bottom half of the second. Toledo shortstop Cale Iorg made a throwing error that led to an unearned run.

Scott Thorman had the Hens’ first hit of the game off Clippers starter David Huff in the fourth on a smartly executed hit and run.

After the wild and whacky second, the game settled down with no more runs until the sixth inning, when Clipper Jerad Head smacked a tworun homer off Wilk that landed in the left-field bleachers. The blast gave the Clippers a 3-2 lead.

Wilk continued to show off his great arm. For the game, Wilk went 5⅔ innings, surrendering three runs, but only two were earned.

Clipper lefty Luke Carlin stretched the Clippers’ lead to 4-2 in the seventh with a solo opposite-field home run off reliever Zach Simons.

The blast landed in the picnic area of Huntington Park. Carlin got the best of Simons again in the eighth when he hit another homer. Carlin’s second homer extended the Clippers’ lead to 6-2.

Scott Sizemore continued to swing a hot bat in the eighth. Sizemore roped a single down the right-field line, but he was thrown out trying to extend his hit into a double.

The Hens did not go quietly in the ninth.

They had one walk and one hit. However, the rally fizzled when Columbus’ Josh Judy struck out Clay Timpner to end the game.

The Mud Hens play the Clippers again Monday at 11:35.

Clippers once again hand Hens a defeat - Toledo Blade

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Oliver continues impressive start

Pitcher involved in 3 of team's 4 wins

Enlarge COLUMBUS — The Mud Hens used their good-luck charm — starting pitcher Andy Oliver — to claim a 13-5 win at Columbus on Monday.

Toledo improved to 4-8 this season, and three of the four wins have come on the days the 23-year-old lefthander has started.

Oliver wasn't perfect Monday. He allowed six hits and three walks that resulted in four runs in six innings, although he struck out eight.

But that was more than enough for the Hens' offense, which produced 16 hits, including four home runs.

Toledo has scored 28 runs in Oliver's three starts. In the Mud Hens' eight losses, the team has managed to score just 15 times.

Andy Dirks had a pair of home runs, launching a solo shot to lead off the seventh inning and a two-run homer in the eighth, and finished with a team-high three hits.

Clete Thomas had a home run, a three-run round-tripper in the seventh inning, to go with a two-run single in the first and finished with six RBIs.

Ryan Strieby a collected a home run when he slammed his second of the season, a two-run shot, in the fifth inning.

Every Toledo starter except Clay Timpner had at least one hit, and everyone else except Argenis Diaz had at least two. Cale Iorg was the only Hens starter who did not score.

The result was the most runs for the Hens since they claimed a 16-2 win over the Clippers at Huntington Park on Aug. 22, 2009.

The Mud Hens begin a seven-day homestand when Toledo hosts Indianapolis at 6:30 Tuesday night

Oliver continues impressive start - Toledo Blade

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Chilling loss for Hens

High winds, cold temperatures freeze up Toledo bats

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Toledo Mud Hens shortstop Cale Iorg dives but can't get a wind blown ball hit by Indianapolis' Josh Harrison during the fifth inning Wednesday morning of the Mud Hens' 4-2 loss at Fifth Third Field. The loss drops the Hens to 4-9 on the season. THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The thermometer at Fifth Third Field read just 44 degrees at the start of Wednesday's Mud Hens game against Indianapolis.

Indians starter Justin Wilson wasn't buying it.

"It didn't feel like 44 -- it felt much colder," said Wilson, a California native. "But you have to deal with it.

"Before the game, [catcher Jason Jaramillo] and I talked about it, and we said that you have to block [the cold] out and do our jobs."

Wilson allowed just two hits in six shutout innings to lead Indianapolis to a 4-2 win over the Hens. Both teams managed just six hits, but the Hens weren't able to scratch out any runs until the late innings, and a four-run deficit was too much to overcome.

That four-run lead seemed monumental on a day where brisk winds whipping at 20 miles per hour, or more, prompted both teams to have space heaters in the dugout -- to little effect.

Indianapolis reliever Justin Thomas, who pitched a scoreless inning for the Tribe, is a Clay High School graduate who has experience pitching in this weather.

"Before you go in, you have to make sure you're loose," Thomas said. "You stay in the clubhouse, you stretch a lot.

"You make sure that your arm is ready to go. When you start getting loose, you make sure you take it easy, make sure you're warmed up."

One of the few hitters who had success for the Hens was second baseman Scott Sizemore, who singled in the third before setting up Toledo's two-run eighth-inning rally with a double.

"You try not to give any at-bats away," he said. "You focus on every pitch. You don't want the pitcher to get away with a fastball down the middle -- a pitch you would normally hit -- just because you're thinking of the cold.

"If you push that stuff aside and focus on what you should be, you can scratch out a hit or two."

The winds affected both defenses as each team allowed popups that would be outs on most days to instead fall for base hits.

"I think the wind changes the game more than any other element," Sizemore said. "The wind seems to do more things to the defense. And the wind with the cold makes it hard to grip the ball."

Still, Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin was quick to point out the weather was no excuse for the Toledo loss.

"I know hitting in this isn't a lot of fun, but both teams are in the same boat," he said. "But we had our chances. Late in the game we had some runners out there and had chances to drive them in -- we just didn't get a big hit.

"That's the difference between winning and losing: They got a couple of two-out hits to drive in runs, and we didn't."

Indianapolis broke on top in the second inning when Andy Marte launched his second home run of the season off the brick supports of the scoreboard in left field.

The game remained 1-0 until the sixth, when back-to-back one-out doubles by Chase d'Arnaud and Pedro Ciriaco produced one run, and a steal of third by Ciriaco set up a sacrifice fly by Alex Presley.

Those were the only missteps by Toledo starter Thad Weber. His 3.00 ERA better reflects the strong start to his season than does his 0-2 record because his teammates have scored just two runs in his two losses.

"He did great," Nevin said of Weber. "He was ahead in the count and very efficient with his pitches. Every start in Triple-A he has pitched deep into games and given his team a chance to win, and that's all you can ask from your starter."

The Hens offense continued its early season struggles, stranding four baserunners in the first three innings before Wilson retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. The Indians' Thomas stranded two baserunners in the seventh before Toledo broke through for a pair of runs in the eighth.

Andy Dirks beat out a grounder up the middle for a single, then raced to third on a double by Sizemore. Timo Perez grounded out to score Dirks before Sizemore came home on a two-out single by Scott Thorman, the Hens' only hit in nine at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

But the rally wasn't enough to prevent the Hens from falling to 4-9 on the season, or to deny Wilson his first Triple-A victory. How did Wilson plan to celebrate?

"I'll be bundled up in a blanket," he said.

Chilling loss for Hens - Toledo Blade

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Toledo splits doubleheader with Indians

Hens' Furbush dominates Game 1

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Toledo's Charlie Furbush threw just 77 pitches in seven innings to one-hit Indianapolis yesterday in a 6-0 win during a doubleheader split with the Indians. Indy won the second contest 3-1.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints Mud Hens pitcher Charlie Furbush finished second among all minor league pitchers in strikeouts last season.

But that didn't keep him from doing some tinkering in the off-season.

The 25-year-old left-hander added a new breaking ball to his arsenal, and that new pitch helped him throw a one-hit shutout against Indianapolis in the first game of a twinbill at Fifth Third Field Thursday.

Furbush's fine effort led Toledo to a 6-0 victory in the first game; in the second contest, the visiting Indians rebounded for a 3-1 win.

Furbush said he worked on grips for a new breaking pitch and taught himself a hybrid pitch that combines the best parts of a curve and a cutter.

"It gives me another look," he said.

Mud Hens photo gallery

"I ran into some struggles here last year, and I figured it can't hurt to have another pitch."

Last year Furbush dominated in Hi-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie before reaching Toledo in late July.

He struggled with the Hens, though, posting a 3-4 record and 6.29 ERA in nine starts that he said helped him prepare for this season.

"I learned to not get too far ahead of myself or try to do too much," Furbush said. "When I got here, I tried to be better than I could be, and I ran into some trouble.

"Instead of doing the things that got me here, I tried to do more and gave up some runs."

Furbush had no problems Thursday, giving up only a leadoff single in the third to Jason Jaramillo while striking out nine.

Furbush threw 77 pitches, with 56 going for strikes (better than 72 percent).

He did not walk a batter -- in fact, he reached a three-ball count with only one hitter, Andrew Lambo in the second.

"I felt pretty good, and I was throwing all of my pitches for strikes," Furbush said. "When you do that, good things are bound to happen. "

The key is to throw strikes and get ahead so you can pitch to your strengths."

Meanwhile the Mud Hens gave Furbush all the offense he would need in a three-run first inning off Indians starter Brad Lincoln. Andy Dirks led off with a double down the left-field line, and Scott Sizemore was hit by a pitch.

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Indianapolis' Jason Jaramillo, right, slides into second base during Game 1 while Toledo's Argenis Diaz makes the play to get an out. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Timo Perez sacrificed both runners up a base, and Scott Thorman beat out an infield grounder for a single that scored Dirks and sent Sizemore to third.

Ryan Strieby then capped the rally with a two-run double in the left-center gap.

"We came out with three runs in the first and we got a big hit from Strieby," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said.

"He hit that ball pretty good, and it was a good at-bat to drive in two [runs]."

The Hens added to their lead with a pair of runs in the third thanks to a two-out, two-run single to center by Clete Thomas.

Toledo scored its final run in the fourth when Danny Worth singled, moved to second on a one-out single by Max St-Pierre, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Dirks.

In the second game the Hens got a run in the first when Dirks led off with a triple and Perez lined an RBI single.

But after that the Hens were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded five baserunners in seven innings.

"I know this team can hit," Nevin said.

"If our starting pitching continues to pitch the way it has, we'll be all right.

"I'm not worried about this club hitting. When we get some consistency with our hitting, we're going to score some runs."

The Indians used an RBI single by Dusty Brown off Toledo starter Chris Oxspring in the second to tie the game.

They scored the game-winning runs in the fifth off reliever Matt Hoffman thanks to a run-scoring hits by Corey Wimberly and Pedro Ciriaco.

NOTES: RHP Jose Ascanio, the Indians' second-game starter, was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Scott Sizemore. Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said Ascanio was struck on the temple by the hit, but never lost consciousness. "He tried to talk me into keeping him in the game," Treanor said. Ascanio was taken to a local hospital for observation. ... RHP Enrique Gonzalez, who was sent down by Detroit on Tuesday, joined the Mud Hens Thursday. To make room for him on the roster, the Hens sent LHP Ramon Garcia to Double-A Erie. ... The two teams will finish their four-game series with a single game Friday, with first pitch set for 7 p.m.

.

Toledo splits doubleheader with Indians - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens' bats snap out of funk

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Toledo’s Andy Dirks singles against Indianapolis during the first inning of the Mud Hens’ 7-1 victory over the Indians. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The Mud Hens offense has struggled to start this season, unable to scratch out more than two runs in nearly half of their first 15 games.

So the 10 hits, four of which went for extra bases, were a welcome sight as the Hens pounded out a 7-1 victory over Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field Friday night.

“[The offense] has been hot and cold so far,” Hens first baseman Ryan Strieby said. “I’m sure our pitchers were thinking, ‘About time.’

“Our pitching staff has been incredible, so it was great to get some runs for them.”

Strieby had two of those hits and a pair of RBIs, while Timo Perez collected three hits and Danny Worth added a pair of extra-base hits as Toledo posted highs for both hits and runs in a game at Fifth Third Field this season.

In the first inning the Hens scored twice when the 6-6 Strieby played a little “small ball.” Andy Dirks beat out a grounder to deep first base for a single, then moved to second on a one-out single by Perez.

Strieby worked the count full against Indianapolis starter Rudy Owens, and Hens manager Phil Nevin sent both runners.

“[strieby] has been swinging the bat well, and I wanted to get some things in motion,” Nevin explained. “I trusted that he would put the ball in play.

“When you get movement on the field, some times good things happen.”

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The Mud Hens’ Ryan Strieby drove in a run on a single in the first inning against Indianapolis. He finished with a pair of RBIs. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The ploy worked flawlessly when Strieby hit a grounder to the spot Indians second baseman Brian Friday vacated to cover second. The hit scored Dirks and sent Perez to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Clete Thomas.

“It would have been routine grounder to second, but it worked out perfectly — just like it was a hit-and-run,” Strieby said.

Strieby didn’t mess around with a little hit in the third. After Perez hustled to beat out a two-out grounder for a single, Strieby slammed an 0-2 pitch over the head of Indianapolis rightfielder Andrew Lambo for a run-scoring double.

“I didn’t think I hit it that well,” Strieby said. “I got the barrel [of the bat] on it, but it was a curveball and I took a defensive swing.

“But it carried pretty well, especially in the cold.”

Worth tripled to lead off the fourth and scored on a wild pitch, then walked to start a sixth-inning rally that produced three runs, two of which scored on a single by Scott Sizemore.

“All in all, I thought everyone swung the bats well,” Nevin said. “John Murrian didn’t get any hits, but he just missed some balls, and I thought Cale Iorg had some good swings.

“We had a lot of good at-bats and made their pitchers work.”

That was more than enough offense for starter Duane Below, who earned a victory in his first home start.

“He had really good angle on his fastball, which means he has a good downhill angle to the plate,” Nevin said of Below. “He was able to keep the ball down, and teams aren’t going to get many good swings when he does that.

“His breaking ball was good, and he threw some change-ups that we liked.”

Below was impressive in the early innings, allowing just two hits through the first five frames. He did not allow a runner past first base until Chase d’Arnaud slammed a long home run to left to lead off the sixth.

“I was just trying to get ahead of guys,” Below said. “When I started falling behind was when they started hitting the ball.

“The ball was coming up in the zone later in the game, when I was tired.”

The lefty from Britton, Mich., who estimated he left 18 tickets for friends and family, allowed just six hits and two walks while striking out six to earn his first Triple-A victory.

“I was just trying to keep the team in the game,” he said. “Getting the win was a plus. I hope there are more [wins] coming to help the team.”

Zach Simons, who fell one out shy of earning a save, finished off the game and did not allow a hit while fanning three in 2? innings, although he did walk three.

NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 23 minutes by rain. Scattered fog settled on the field in the later innings, and a strong rain began less than 10 minutes following the final pitch. ... The Mud Hens begin a three-game series with Louisville Saturday night, with first pitch set for 7 p.m.

Mud Hens' bats snap out of funk - Toledo Blade

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Louisville sneaks past Hens

Dirks tallies 4 RBIs, but bullpen collapses

BY RYAN AUTULLO

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Toledo's Scott Sizemore steals second base against Louisville shortstop Zack Cozart (7) during the fourth inning. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

As the dangerous Andy Dirks walked from the on deck circle to the batter’s box, Louisville catcher Devin Mesoraco walked out to the pitcher’s mound for a conference with right hander Jerry Gil.

For both teams, this eighth-inning at-bat was critical. Dirks, the Mud Hens leadoff hitter had already crushed two home runs, and the idea that he might hit a third — or at least drive in a base runner or two — permeated throughout Fifth Third Field.

Gil ultimately snuck a fastball by Dirks with the count full, it perhaps being the decisive moment in Louisville’s 6-4 win in a series opener on Saturday.

Seventeen games into the season, the Hens (6-11) have yet to put together a winning streak, and Saturday night seemed liked a prime opportunity with them taking a 4-2 lead into the eighth.

“You look at the stats from this game, you look at the box score, and you wonder how and the heck we lost it,” manager Phil Nevin said. “But we did.”

They lost it because of failures by their bullpen to close a disastrous eighth inning, and by the offense to capitalize on prime scoring chances in each of the final three innings.

Starting pitcher Adam Wilk had retired one batter and given up one run in the eighth inning when Nevin summoned right hander Robbie Weinhardt from the bullpen.

Weinhardt’s first pitch traveled into the back of the catcher Mesoraco, putting a second runner on base but also creating a double-play opportunity. Weinhardt’s second pitch produced a much worse result, as Todd Frazier clobbered the offering, the ball landing somewhere on Monroe Street behind left field.

Weinhardt (0-1) was charged with two of the three runs.

“Robbie’s the guy we’re going to go to,” Nevin said. “It was one pitch.”

The Hens could not manage to land a counter punch in the bottom half of the inning, with Max St-Pierre and Dirks unable to deliver a hit to plate Argenis Diaz standing at third. It was a similar story in the innings that sandwiched the eighth, with both beginning with two batters reaching base and ending with three straight outs.

“Sometimes [the other team’s] going to get the big hit, and we don’t get the big hit,” Dirks said. “Other nights we’ll get the big hit and they won’t. That’s just what baseball comes down to.”

Dirks drove in four runs, three of them on a home run in the fourth inning that narrowly missed breaking a window and landing in the dining room at Fricker’s. In the inning prior, Dirks crushed a hanging breaking ball from starter Scott Carroll to about the same destination in right field, only with a little less oomph.

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Toledo’s Andy Dirks watches his second home run of the night leave Fifth Third Field. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Dirks, the team’s leadoff hitter, raised his averaged from .286 to .317 and has now hit safely in six-straight games. He believes his teammates who aren’t having as much success at the plate will soon catch some steam.

“Just a matter of time before everything kind of falls into place,” he said. “It’s still really early in the season and when it does, we’ll be a really good ball team.”

Nevin said his team’s shortcomings at the plate are not yet a concern because the starting pitching has been so strong.

Wilk capped off a week in which his teammate Charlie Furbush recorded a one-hitter in an abbreviated seven inning game by working 7? innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out seven.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get him the win,” Nevin said

Louisville sneaks past Hens - Toledo Blade

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Bats silence Mud Hens

Toledo shut out for 2nd time this season as offense struggles

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Mud Hens shortstop Cale Iorg races to plant a tag on Louisville baserunner Dave Sappelt, who was caught leading too far off first base. The Hens had a difficult time getting on track against the Bats pitcher Homer Bailey and were shut out for the second time this season. THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Not much went right for the Mud Hens in their 9-0 loss to Louisville on Sunday.

The offense struggled, collecting just four hits while being shut out for the second time this season. Defensively, Toledo pitchers allowed 13 hits, including three home runs, along with six walks. The two errors behind them didn’t help, either.

Even the crowd was small; the Easter Sunday attendance was announced at 4,008 for the fifth-smallest crowd in Fifth Third Field history.

So what do you do?

“Win, lose, or draw, 144 times you have to set the last game behind you,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “You have to come out the next day as if it didn’t happen.

“We lost a tough game [saturday], and I know I didn’t get any sleep.”

That’s not to say Sunday’s game wasn’t tough on the manager, seeing as there weren’t many — if any — bright spots. Long-time Louisville manager Rick Sweet may not have been sympathetic, but he sure did understand.

“Over the course of a season you’re going to be on both ends of those types of games,” Sweet said. “In Columbus we got beat 19-3 the other night.

“And this wasn’t quite the blowout we had in Columbus. In this ballpark, five runs can go away in a heartbeat.”

Still, the Bats managed to score five runs off Toledo starter Andy Oliver, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings. It was a far cry from his first start against Louisville in the season opener, when he allowed just four hits and two runs in six strong frames.

“In the game at our place, he blew us away,” Sweet said of Oliver. “He’s got very good stuff, and he had good stuff in this game.

“For us, it was about getting into fastball counts and hitting good fastballs. We didn’t blow him away; we squeaked in a run here and got some bunts down and then got some big base hits.”

Sweet was right: Louisville’s run in the second scored thanks to a sacrifice and a grounder that squeezed through a drawn-in infield, while the run in the third was manufactured thanks to a walk, a bunt hit, a balk, and a sacrifice fly.

“They were more aggressive, swinging first pitch a lot,” Oliver said. “[My fastball command] could have been better, and there are some things I could have done differently.

“But those things are going to happen — that’s baseball. Being able to focus on the next pitch and being able to let it go while you get back to your routine is what you need to do.”

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Toledo manager Phil Nevin pulls starting pitcher Andy Oliver, who lasted four-plus innings and gave up seven hits, five runs, walked four, and struck out two. The loss was Oliver’s first of the 2011 season. THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Photo Reprints

In the fourth Oliver gave up a walk and a long home run to Kristopher Negron, and a double by Dave Sappelt in the fifth resulted in the final run Oliver allowed, which came home on a bases-loaded four-pitch walk.

“He wasn’t able to throw to both sides of the plate, and that happens,” Nevin said of Oliver. “But at the end of the day, we weren’t down that much when Andy left the game. When you don’t score, you’re not going to win many games.”

And the Mud Hens didn’t come close to scoring off Bats starter Homer Bailey, who is rehabbing from a shoulder impingement. Bailey allowed just three hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings, striking out six along the way.

“The command was there,” said Bailey, who did not allow a runner to advance past second base. “For a rehab start, I thought it went really well. Having Corky [Miller at catcher], someone I’m familiar with helped too; I only shook off one pitch [he called].”

Bailey said he thinks he’ll have one more rehab start with the Bats.

“He looks like he’s ready to go [back up] now,” Nevin said. “We didn’t have many good swings, and that’s a credit to him.”

Jeremy Horst relieved Bailey in the sixth and pitched around two walks, while Ayersville High School product Chad Reineke limited the Hens to just one hit over the final three innings to earn a save.

“For two years, he’s been in a class to himself,” Sweet said of Reineke. “They like him in the big leagues, and twice he has been within a whisker of getting called up.

“He throws strikes, and he knows how to play the game. He throws quality strikes and works fast. If you put a good defense behind Chad, you will have a chance to win a lot of ball games.”

NOTE: The Mud Hens put IF Danny Worth on the disabled list before Sunday’s game. Worth pulled his right hamstring beating out a base hit in Saturday’s game. IF Bryan Pounds will be called up from Double-A Erie to take Worth’s place.

Bats silence Mud Hens - Toledo Blade

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Big rally lifts Hens

Sizemore’s 3-run double in ninth gives Toledo a win

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Scott Thorman greets Andy Dirks as Dirks crosses the plate to score the winning run against Louisville on a hit by Scott Sizemore. THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Photo Reprints

After a tough loss Saturday and a poor performance Sunday, the Mud Hens were a team in search of a big victory.

One strike away from losing their third straight contest, Toledo instead found a way to win.

Scott Sizemore’s bases-loaded double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning brought home three runs in a thrilling 6-5 victory Monday night over Louisville at Fifth Third Field.

Sizemore said a talk from manager Phil Nevin before Monday’s game helped the team find the grit needed to grind out the walk-off win.

“[sunday] was an ugly one,” Sizemore said. “Skip talked to us, and I think everyone took it to heart and came ready to play.

“[He talked about] showing a little more character: showing up ready to play, and never packing it in after a tough loss. We had a tough loss [saturday], and we didn’t show up to play the next day, so this was a good sign.”

Monday night’s game went back-and-forth early, with the lead changing hands three times before Louisville scored twice in the fifth and once in the sixth to carry a 5-3 lead into the late innings.

“In the seventh, when we hit a couple of balls hard, I had a feeling something good would happen,” Nevin said. “I’m really proud of the guys in our room because this was a dogfight. With the way we came back, it was fun to be a part of the group. They showed me a lot.”

The Hens’ ninth-inning rally began with a one-out single by Cale Iorg off Bats reliever Daniel Ray Herrera. With two outs pinch-hitter Timo Perez drew a walk, and Andy Dirks hit a grounder wide of first that was misplayed by Danny Dorn for an error that loaded the bases for Sizemore.

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Louisville’s Dontrelle Willis pitches last night at Fifth Third Field. The former Hen gave up two earned runs on six hits in seven innings. THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The second baseman, who already had two hits in the contest, fell behind 1-2 before lining a shot down the left-field line that rolled past Louisville left fielder Todd Frazier to the wall, allowing all three baserunners to race home.

“I thought he made a pretty good pitch on 1-2,” said Sizemore, who was hit in the face by a shaving-cream pie courtesy of Dirks. “I just happened to see it, stay back on it and put a good swing on it.”

The late comeback made a winner of Hens reliever Robbie Weinhardt, who pitched a scoreless ninth. Brendan Wise also played a key role in the victory, retiring all seven hitters he faced to keep Toledo close.

“Wise’s outing was huge because he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win,” Nevin said. “Robbie had a tough night [saturday], but I have plenty of confidence of him to come into a tight game and give us a chance to win.”

Toledo’s late rally snatched a victory away from Louisville starter Dontrelle Willis, the left-hander who was with the Detroit Tigers the last three seasons and played for the Hens. Relying mostly on fastballs, Willis limited the Hens to six hits and three runs in seven innings, striking out four.

“I’m happy for him,” Nevin said of Willis, who declined an interview request after the game. “It looked to me that he was back to pretty close to where he was when I faced him.

“He’s well-liked by a lot of guys in this [clubhouse] and a lot of guys in this organization. It’s good to see him back, throwing strikes and pitching the way he did in the past.”

While Willis pitched well, it wasn’t enough to overcome the scrappy comeback effort of the team he pitched for in 2008 and ‘09.

“You always play until the last out, because anything can happen,” Sizemore said. “As soon as you give up, the game’s over.

“As long as we keep fighting, I like our chances the rest of the way out.”

NOTES: Monday night’s announced crowd of 3,903 was the fourth-smallest in Fifth Third Field history. Combined with Sunday’s crowd of 4,008, it is the lowest back-to-back crowds since the ballpark opened 10 years ago. ... The two teams played in a steady, but not hard, rain in the later innings. ... The Mud Hens begin a four-game series Tuesday at Syracuse with LHP Charlie Furbush facing the Chiefs’ Garrett Mock.

Big rally lifts Hens - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens rained out in Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The opener of a four-game series with the Syracuse Chiefs was rained out Tuesday night at Alliance Bank Stadium.

The teams will play a doubleheader today starting at 5 p.m. After another four-game set in Pawtucket, the Mud Hens return home Thursday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m. against Charlotte.

Mud Hens rained out in Syracuse - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens pull off sweep of Syracuse

Furbush tosses complete game in 1st contest

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Mud Hens hit three home runs in the fourth inning to break open a tied game and pull away for a 6-2 win over the Syracuse Chiefs Wednesday in the first of a doubleheader while winning a rain-shortened second game, 3-1.

In the first game, Hens starter Charlie Furbush struck out 11 Chiefs batters in the complete-game win. Syracuse starter J.D. Martin took the loss, giving up six earned runs on six hits through 4 2/3 innings.

Chiefs' third baseman Alex Valdez hit an RBI triple to tie the score at 1-1 in the second inning, but Syracuse struggled to get its bats going against the Hens' lefty. Furbush struck out three straight batters to end the third inning before the Mud Hens stormed in front.

Scott Sizemore started the fourth with a blast to centerfield to put the lead at 2-1. Two batters later, first baseman Ryan Strieby hit another home run. Bryan Pounds crushed the third home run of the inning to extend the lead.

The Mud Hens run continued into the fifth as Sizemore brought home Max St-Pierre on a sacrifice fly. Matt Chico entered in relief of Martin after that at-bat, but it didn't stop Toledo from adding one more. Andy Dirks scored from second as Timo Perez singled off Chico to put the score at 6-1.

Heavy rainfall cut the second game short -- just two outs into the sixth inning of a scheduled seven-inning affair.

Perez powered Toledo's offense with 3 RBIs.

Chiefs righty Erik Arnesen (0-1) suffered a loss in his first start for Syracuse this season. He pitched five innings, giving up three earned runs off eight hits and striking out four.

In the first inning, a leadoff single by centerfielder Andy Dirks followed by a Sizemore double put Toledo's first two batters in scoring position. Perez then stepped to the plate and knocked a single past second base to bring both runners home.

Chiefs catcher Jhonatan Solano displayed his speed in the third, scoring from first base on a single by Seth Bynum to pull Syracuse within 3-1. The Chiefs did manage to load the bases on Toledo starter Chris Oxspring with two outs in the fourth, but reliever Fu-Te Ni (3-0) stepped to the mound and struck out Corey Brown to end the inning.

The game was called at 10:31 p.m.

Mud Hens pull off sweep of Syracuse - Toledo Blade

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