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2011 Toledo Mud Hen Articles

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Mud Hens claim 4th straight win

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The Mud Hens offense was hitting on all cylinders in Thursday night's 7-2 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs, the team's fourth-straight win.

The victory was highlighted by a five-run fourth inning in which 10 Mud Hens came to the plate.

Duane Below (2-1) earned his second win of the season after working seven innings, striking out five and allowing just one run to score.

Toledo (10-12) tallied the game's first run in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly by Cesar Nicolas.

Tonight was Nicolas' first game with the Mud Hens as he was spending time in extended spring training.

John Murrian dealt the big blow in the fifth when he singled in Bryan Pounds -- who went 4-for-4 -- and Scott Thorman. Cale Iorg scored, and Murrian advanced to second on a throwing error by the Chiefs' (7-14).

Zach Simons came out of the bullpen and worked the final two innings for the Hens.

Mud Hens claim 4th straight win - Toledo Blade

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Wilk pitches Mud Hens to 5th straight victory

Enlarge SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Mud Hens took the four-game series finale against the Syracuse Chiefs Friday night, winning 7-1.

Adam Wilk (1-2) pitched masterfully through seven innings allowing just one run, en route to his first win of the season. Timo Perez paced the offense, going 2 for 5 with four RBI.

The victory gave the Mud Hens their first sweep of the season and improved their record to within one game of .500 at 11-12. They have now won five straight.

It is the sqaud’s first four-game sweep since sweeping Buffalo in on July 23-26, 2010.

In the top of the third, and up 1-0, Toledo added three runs on Perez’s three-run home run to push the lead to 4-0. The three-run shot was preceded by a Max St-Pierre single and a Scott Sizemore walk.

The Chiefs’ (7-15) Chris Marrero hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth to come within three of the Mud Hens at 4-1.

The Hens took a 5-1 lead in the top of the seventh when Cale Iorg singled, advanced to third on a single by Dirks and was eventually brought home on a RBI-single by Sizmore.

Matt Hoffman worked a perfect eighth inning in relief of Wilk. Brendan Wise pitched the ninth.

The Mud Hens travel to Pawtucket in a four-game series on Saturday night.

Wilk pitches Mud Hens to 5th straight victory - Toledo Blade

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Hens back at .500 with victory

Oliver fans six PawSox in 3-hitter

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The Mud Hens held on to a 4-3 win against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Saturday night at McCoy Stadium for their sixth win in a row, creeping back to the .500 mark for the first time since the second game of the season on April 8.

Andy Oliver (3-1) took the win, working seven innings, striking out six and allowing just three hits.

The Mud Hens (12-12) got things started in the top of the fourth with a Scott Sizemore single. Sizemore advanced to second on a balk and was pushed to third on a sacrifice bunt by Timo Perez. Ryan Strieby brought Sizemore home in a RBI single up the middle to make the score 1-0.

The Hens struck again in the fifth when Argenis Diaz singled with one out. Diaz then advanced to third on a single by Andy Dirks. A Sizemore single brought in Diaz to give Toledo a 2-0 advantage.

Sizemore doubled to center field to start the eighth. Perez dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but was able to reach first on a fielding error by the Paw Sox (13-10).

Sizemore reached third on the error and was brought home when Scott Thorman hit a fielder’s choice.

Thorman stole second and was then brought home on a RBI single by Cale Iorg to give the Hens a 4-0 lead.

Toledo threatened to score again when Iorg stole second but Clete Thomas grounded out to end the inning.

Robbie Weinhardt came in to pitch in the eighth and faced three hitters, all of which reached base. Matt Hoffman replaced Weinhardt and promptly allowed a double that plated two to shrink the Hens’ lead to 4-3.

With one out and men on first and third, Enrique Gonzalez came out of the bullpen in relief of Hoffman and recorded a strikeout and a groundout to silence the Red Sox rally.

Gonzalez stayed on and worked a perfect ninth inning to give the Mud Hens the 4-3 win.

Sizemore’s 3-for-4 performance pushed his season average to .417.

The Mud Hens take on the Paw Sox again Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

Hens back at .500 with victory - Toledo Blade

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Hens stretch win streak to 7

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Toledo continued its winning ways Sunday. The Hens beat Pawtucket 4-3 to win their seventh straight game.

Enlarge Sunday's action got started right away in the top of the first. With two runners on and two outs, Bryan Pounds lined a single to left. The runner on second, Andy Dirks, tried to give Toledo an early lead. However, Dirks was thrown out at home.

Hens starter Thad Weber had a dominating start to the game, striking out five of the first six batters, but Pawtucket broke through in the top of the third when they hit back to back home runs down the left field line.

The next inning, the Hens quickly struck back. John Murrian hit an RBI sac fly to right field to plate Toledo's first run of the game. Dirks added an RBI single to tie the game. Scott Sizemore then smacked a two-run triple to give the Hens a 4-2 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Michael McKenry belted Pawtucket's third homer of the game to close the lead to 4-3.

However, the Mud Hens and the Red Sox did not score a run for the rest game.

Hens stretch win streak to 7 - Toledo Blade

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Hens’ winning streak ends at 7 as Pawtucket pummels Furbush

BLADE STAFF

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — The Mud Hens saw their seven-game winning streak end with a thud in a 11-2 loss to Pawtucket Monday night.

The Red Sox collected five home runs, including a pair by both Hector Luna and Yamaico Navarro, and scored at least one run in each of the first five innings to hand the Hens their first loss on their current road trip.

Luna slammed a two-run homer off Toledo starter and loser Charlie Furbush in the first. Drew Sutton hit a three-run homer off Furbush in the second, and two batters later Luna hammered a solo shot that ended Furbush’s day.

Navarro hit a two-run homer off Hens reliever Chris Oxspring in the third and a solo shot off Oxspring in the fifth.

Luna and Navarro each finished with three of Pawtucket’s 13 hits.

With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the first, the Mud Hens had a chance to crack open an early lead. However, Toledo was not able to take advantage of the opportunity as Ryan Strieby and Scott Thorman each struck out.

Toledo scored a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, who is on a two-game rehab assignment with the Hens, and got a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Andy Dirks.

Argenis Diaz and Timo Perez each had two hits to lead the Hens, who returned to the .500 mark at 13-13.

Martinez got his first hit with the Mud Hens when he singled in the seventh inning.

The Mud Hens cap their eight-game road trip with a 12:05 p.m. contest in Pawtucket Tuesday.

NOTE: Scott Sizemore, who leads the International League with a .408 batting average, was in the original starting lineup but was replaced by Diaz.

Hens outfielder Dirks IL player of the week

Mud Hens outfielder Andy Dirks was named International League player of the week, the league announced Monday.

Dirks hit in all seven games last week, hitting .433 with a home run, five RBIs and eight runs scored as well as four stolen bases to help Toledo win all seven contests.

On the season Dirks is hitting .340 with six home runs, 16 RBIs, 23 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. Dirks leads the IL in runs and stolen bases and ranks seventh in batting average.

Hens? winning streak ends at 7 as Pawtucket pummels Furbush - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens back on track, finish 7-1 on road series

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- The Mud Hens finished with a 7-1 record on their just-completed road trip thanks to a 7-2 victory over Pawtucket Tuesday afternoon.

Toledo broke a 2-2 tie with three runs in the fifth and added two insurance runs in the eighth to claim its eighth win in the last nine games.

Pawtucket scored a run in the first off Hens starter Duane Below when Josh Reddick singled with two outs and Hector Luna doubled Reddick home.

The Mud Hens bounced back with two runs in the second as Ryan Strieby walked and Cale Iorg hit his first home run of the season.

The Red Sox tied the game in the fourth when Luna homered -- his fourth of the season, and his third in the last two days against Toledo. That was all Pawtucket managed against Below (3-1), who struck out five and walked three while allowing seven hits in six innings. Fu-Te Ni followed Below with two scoreless innings and Matt Hoffman struck out two in a uneventful ninth to close out the win.

Meanwhile the Hens took advantage of a walk and an error to score their three runs in the fifth. Argenis Diaz started the rally by drawing a walk from Red Sox reliever Jason Rice (0-2), then moved to second on a single by Timo Perez.

Victor Martinez singled to score Diaz and send Perez to third, and Perez came home when Pawtucket's Drew Sutton made an error on a grounder by Strieby. Martinez, who advanced to third on the Strieby grounder, scored on a groundout by Cesar Nicholas.

Toledo's eighth-inning runs came on a wild pitch that scored Clete Thomas and an RBI single by Perez that brought home Max St-Pierre.

Perez led the Mud Hens' 11-hit attack with four singles, while Martinez, who completed his two-day rehab assignment with the Mud Hens, and St-Pierre each had two hits.

The Mud Hens will have the day off Wednesday before beginning an eight-game homestand with a four-game series against Charlotte. Thursday's contest at Fifth Third Field will feature a start by Chicago White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, the 2007 National League Cy Young award winner who is rehabbing a shoulder injury.

Mud Hens back on track, finish 7-1 on road series - Toledo Blade

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Hens get doubled up

Toledo has 1 good inning against Charlotte

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Hens-get-doubled-up.jpg

Will Rymes, left, and Ryan Strieby high five Thursday after a two-run home run by Strieby in the third inning of Toledo's 10-5 loss. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints For six of the seven innings Jake Peavy faced the Mud Hens Thursday night, he was in complete command.

If you ignore the third inning, he retired all 18 batters he faced. The 2007 Cy Young award winner struck out five and did not walk a batter in pitching Charlotte to a 10-5 victory over the Hens.

But you can't ignore that third inning.

Peavy -- who is rehabbing his throwing shoulder -- struggled in that frame, allowing four hits -- including a two-run triple to Will Rhymes and a two-run homer to Ryan Strieby.

"In the first two innings I was very sharp out of the windup," Peavy said. "In the third I got into the stretch and I couldn't make any good pitches. Mechanically I felt very different, so from the third inning on I threw from the stretch and got to where I was feeling very good.

"The biggest pitches you're going to throw through the course of a season are out of the stretch, so it was good for me to throw from the stretch."

Peavy finished strong, throwing exactly 100 pitches -- 71 of which were strikes -- to finish seven innings.

"As a friend, and as a fan of baseball, I thought it was good to see him pitch into the seventh -- and be healthy," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "I thought we took some good swings off him, and we gave ourselves a chance to win by getting back into it.

"We just gave up too many [runs]."

Peavy said the plan is for him to rejoin the Chicago White Sox for a start against the Angels on May 11.

"I get chills just thinking about it -- it would be like making my debut again," Peavy said. "I'm excited. There was a time when I walked off the mound and I didn't know if I would ever do this again. And when I was being wheeled into surgery, the doctors were using the word 'experimental,' and that's not a word you want to hear when you're going into surgery.

"But I feel very blessed. I have a lot of people to thank, from doctors to trainers to everybody. I still have a way to go, but I hope through the course of this year to get better."

Strieby, who hit the home run off Peavy, said the right-hander got better as the game progressed.

"He threw me a cutter in my first at-bat, and I saw that was the pitch he was using to get ahead of hitters," Strieby said. "So I looked for it early in the at-bat, and he left one over the plate [for the home run].

"I think he got sharper as the game went on. He gained more confidence as the game went on, and I thought he threw pretty well. He was hitting his spots and didn't make too many mistakes over the plate."

Hens-get-doubled-up-2.jpg

Toledo's Adam Wilk pitched four innings Thursday, allowing eight hits and six earned runs in the loss.

Meanwhile Toledo starter Adam Wilk struggled, giving up eight hits and six earned runs while covering only four innings. It was a far cry from the work he and the rest of the rotation have done this season: before Thursday night, Mud Hen starters had a 3.60 ERA.

"Wilk was up with his pitches," Nevin said. "He had some good innings and he had some rough ones. We can't count on our starters to cover seven innings and give up three runs or less every outing.

"But Adam will go out there again in five days, and I expect him to have a good start."

Wilk gave up a two-out, three-run homer to Dallas McPherson in the first inning, then three straight doubles that resulted in two more runs in the third. But the most damaging hit was a solo home run by Jordan Danks to lead off the fourth.

"I think the home run that really got us was [the one by Danks]," Nevin said. "We had just scored five to tie it, and the very first pitch of the next inning is hit out of the ballpark.

"That's a big momentum-changer, especially with Jake on the mound. He gave up five, but when he got the lead back I promise you he smelled [the win] and wasn't going to give up the lead again."

Reliever Robbie Weinhardt retired the first seven batters he faced in relief of Wilk, but gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Daya Viciedo in the seventh.

The Knights put the game out of reach with single runs in the eighth and ninth, but the best news for White Sox fans is that Peavy seems ready to return to the majors.

"I welcome any expectations anyone wants to put on me, because I expect a lot of myself," Peavy said. "I can't promise anything, but if I pitch in Anaheim on May 11 I expect to win."

NOTES: Before the game the Mud Hens added RHP Lester Oliveros to the roster. Oliveros, who was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 16 innings for Double-A Erie, replaced RHP Zach Simons, who was 0-1 with a 5.11 ERA in eight appearances with the Hens. ... Peavy treated his Charlotte teammates to a spread from Outback Steakhouse. After the game he also visited with Nevin, who was a teammate of his while both played at San Diego.

Hens get doubled up - Toledo Blade

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Charlotte overcomes Thorman

Left fielder homers twice in Mud Hens’ loss

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ryan-strieby-scott-thorman-toledo-mud-hens.jpg

Ryan Strieby, left, congratulates Scott Thorman after Thorman’s second homer of the night. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The Charlotte Knights decided to challenge Scott Thorman Friday night.

For most of the night, Charlotte positioned three players on the right side of the infield, daring the left-handed hitter to hit the ball to the opposite field.

But twice Friday night the Mud Hens’ left fielder found a different solution: hammering the ball over the Knights’ heads.

Thorman homered twice, but it wasn’t enough to keep Toledo from dropping an 8-7 decision to Charlotte.

Thorman, who finished with three runs scored and four RBIs on the night, was philosophical about facing the shift.

“Sometimes you beat it with a weak ground ball to the left and you get a single out of it,” he said. “Sometimes you hit it on the button and the second baseman is right there waiting for it in shallow right.

“I try not to worry about it. I just try to go about my business the same way.”

In the first inning, Thorman faced Charlotte starter Brandon Hynick with two outs and Timo Perez on second following an RBI double. Thorman quickly broke an 0-for-13 slump with a long home run to right.

Then in the fifth, Thorman followed a Ryan Strieby double by hammering the first pitch he saw off the buildings behind the right-field fence.

“I was looking for something up that I could handle,” Thorman said of the two at-bats. “The first one came on a changeup, and the second came on a breaking ball.

“I was just looking for something to hit.”

In the seventh inning, Thorman was prepared to beat the shift in another way — by laying a bunt down the exposed third-base line.

“He was trying to bunt to get a guy on,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “I said, ‘Don’t do that. I want you swinging.’

“He’s a guy we’re going to need in the middle [of the batting order]. I go a lot on track record, and I think at the end the year he’s going to put up the numbers he puts up every year. With those guys, you have to stick with them.”

Thorman entered the game hitting just .200 with one home run, but Nevin said he is confident the 29-year-old Canadian will finish the season with numbers similar to last year, when he had 22 homers and 85 RBIs in 125 games for Triple-A Omaha in the Pacific Coast League.

“He’s a pull guy who goes up there and swings aggressively,” Nevin said. “Ted Williams was a pull guy who faced a lot of shifts, and he ended up doing all right.”

Thorman wasn’t the only guy swinging a hot bat for Toledo, which finished with 12 hits. Bryan Pounds finished with three singles and a walk, while Perez and Strieby each had a pair of doubles.

“Right now we’re swinging it well,” Nevin said. “We’re taking good at-bats up and down the lineup. We’re doing the right things on the bases, and we’re getting good at-bats with guys on base.

“If we keep scoring [seven] runs, we’ll win a lot of games.”

Seven wasn’t good enough Friday, though, because of problems with the pitching. Starter Thad Weber allowed eight hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings in easily his worst start of the season.

“Normally you see him pound [the strike zone] and get ahead,” Nevin said. “In the innings where he put zeroes up, they were quick outs because he got ahead of the hitters.

“But at 10:30 in the morning he found out he was pitching today. To his credit, he didn’t make any excuses — he went out there and battled.”

The bullpen didn’t fare much better as Fu-Te Ni gave up the game-tying run in the seventh, and Enrique Gonzalez gave up the winning run in the top of the ninth. That run scored when Eduardo Escobar led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Alejandro De Aza, and scored on Jim Gallagher’s double.

NOTES: Weber started Friay’s game because the Mud Hens pushed the scheduled starter, lefty Andy Oliver, back to Monday after Oliver developed a hand problem. ... Nevin said infielder Danny Worth, who has been on the disabled list since April 25 with a hamstring injury, should be back before the homestand ends. He also said outfielder Clay Timpner, who went on the DL April 26 with a quad strain, also could return next week.

Charlotte overcomes Thorman - Toledo Blade

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Toledo loses nailbiter

Furbush falls in pitching duel with Hernandez

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

charlie-furbush-toledo-mud-hens.jpg

The Mud Hens’ Charlie Furbush was sharp all in his new pink spikes in honor of Mother’s Day, but he lost the game 1-0. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Mud Hens starter Charlie Furbush had a lot of motivation heading into his start against Charlotte Saturday night.

Whether it was stopping Toledo’s two-game losing streak, or bouncing back from his last start, or matching the no-hitter thrown by Justin Verlander, or looking sharp in his bright pink spikes ...

Bright pink spikes?

“I just got them, and I figured I’d wear them for Mother’s Day,” Furbush said.

He certainly did look sharp in his new spikes, limiting Charlotte to a single hit and one run in eight strong innings.

The problem was that the Knights’ Gaby Hernandez and two relievers combined to shut out the Hens on five hits to give the Knights a 1-0 victory.

“That’s a pretty good hitting team over there, and he was pretty good,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said of Furbush. “He threw everything for strikes, he pitched inside well, and he kept them off-balance.

“He’s got some electric stuff when he is on. And he was definitely on.”

Furbush struggled in his previous start, getting knocked out of the box in the second inning at Pawtucket May 2. He allowed seven runs, five of which were earned, which caused his season ERA to jump from 1.90 to 3.55.

“It just wasn’t my day, and that’s the way the game works some times,” Furbush said.

“I just wanted to get back and stay with the same approach I’ve always used, and just take it one day at a time.”

What made the start against Pawtucket especially tough was that it was the closest start he will make to his hometown of South Portland, Maine.

More than 30 friends and family made the three-hour drive to see him pitch that day.

“It was great to have them come down and see them,” Furbush said. “But I don’t think that affected me at all.”

Saturday Furbush was in command, throwing 75 of his 108 pitches for strikes. He finished with eight strikeouts to give him an International League-best 41 this season.

“I felt confident in all of my pitches, but I stuck with the [four-seam and two-seam] fastball, curveball, and cutter,” Furbush said. “I threw a few change-ups, but I mainly attacked the zone with the other four pitches.

“They all were working well. I didn’t want to fall into a routine of using the same pitch when I had the opportunity to go for a strikeout. I tried to keep the hitters off-balance as best I could.”

Charlotte had only four baserunners in Furbush’s eight innings, with one reaching on an error, and another drawing a walk. Neither advanced past second base.

His only mistake was costly.

With Jordan Danks on first base, former Hen Gookie Dawkins ripped a double into the left-field corner, and the speedy Danks raced home with the game’s only run.

“It was a fastball that he put some good wood on,” Furbush said. “You need to tip your cap to them.”

The Mud Hens, who had scored 12 runs in the previous two losses, couldn’t manage one against Hernandez and relievers Jhonny Nunez and Brian Bruney.

Toledo had its chances. The best one came in the fourth, when Timo Perez reached base when a strikeout pitch flew to the backstop, then moved to second on an infield hit by Ryan Strieby.

Nevin held Perez at third on a single to right by Scott Thorman, loading the bases with one out.

“I thought Timo would have been out by 20 feet,” Nevin said. “I understand that everyone gets excited when there’s a hit with a runner on second, but the ball was in the infield with Timo getting to third base.

“I had the bases loaded with one out and a guy coming to the plate who was hitting .400, so I will take my chances with that.”

But Bryan Pounds struck out, and Cesar Nicholas flew out to thwart the rally.

The wasted threat was a reoccuring theme for the Hens all night.

“We ran a hit-and-run, and we hit the ball right to the guy covering second base,” Nevin said. “They made two great diving catches.

“We couldn’t get any breaks — it was the buzzard’s luck,”

Toledo loses nailbiter - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens rally in 9th to beat Charlotte

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

toledo-mud-hens-duane-below.jpg

Mud Hen‘s Duane Below retired the first 14 he faced, struck out 11, allowed 2 hits, but didn't win. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Photo Reprints

For eight innings Sunday, the Mud Hens seemed poised to claim a big victory.

In the top of the ninth inning, that big victory seemed to turn into a crushing loss.

But in the bottom of the ninth, that crushing loss became a huge 4-3 win over Charlotte at Fifth Third Field.

Toledo got great pitching from starter Duane Below and enough offense to take a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth, putting them in position to snap a three-game losing streak. But a two-run homer in the top of the ninth by the Knights’ Jim Gallagher had the Hens poised to suffer a four-game sweep.

But Toledo got an RBI single from Andy Dirks to tie the game, then a walk-off run-scoring double by Will Rhymes to set off a raucous post-game celebration that included a shaving-cream pie to Rhymes’ face courtesy of Robbie Weinhardt.

“That was a huge win for us so that we didn’t get swept,” Below said. “Now we need to keep working and keep getting better.”

The game-winning rally began when the Hens’ Argenis Diaz hammered a double to deep center off Charlotte reliever Josh Kinney. Pinch-hitter Timo Perez delivered an important groundout that moved Diaz to third and set the stage for Dirks, who slammed the first pitch from Kinney on a line to center for an RBI single.

“I was just trying to stay balanced,” Dirks said. “I that situation, you can’t just swing for the fence. I tried to stay balanced, and I got a good pitch that I could drive, and I drove it up the middle.”

Rhymes took a pitch from Kinney, then crushed the next one high off the wall in center for a double that allowed Dirks to score the winning run from first base.

“I was just trying to make contact,” said Rhymes, who had struck out in three of his previous four at-bats. “I was trying to be aggressive, because I had been passive all day, and that hadn’t worked.

“Obviously it hadn’t been a great day — I can’t remember the last time I had three strikeouts in a game — and luckily he made a mistake.”

The fact that Dirks had been 0-for-11 before singling in the fifth Sunday, and that Rhymes had struggled before his final at-bat didn’t keep Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin from being confident when that pair came to the plate.

“Those are the guys you want at the plate in that situation,” Nevin said. “They’re grinders, and you know you’re going to get a good at-bat out of them.”

The Hens wouldn’t have found themselves in that situation if reliever Enrique Gonzalez hadn’t blown a save in the top of the ninth. Gonzalez issued a four-pitch walk to Eduardo Escobar with one out, then gave up a two-run homer to Jim Gallagher off the buildings behind the right-field fence.

“Gonzo has been my guy, and he’s going to be my guy,” Nevin said of Gozalez. “If there’s a save situation [today], there’s a good chance you’re going to see Enrique out there.

“I have faith in him. I trust him. That was just a good hitter who hit a good pitch — it was down and in, so that was a good piece of hitting.”

That mistake cost Britton, Mich., native Duane Below a victory he certainly deserved. The lefty allowed just two hits and one walk and struck out a season-high 11, retiring the first 14 Knights he faced before giving up a single to Lastings Milledge. Milledge also got the other hit off Below, a home run leading off the eighth that spoiled the shutout bid.

“[Catcher] Max [st-Pierre] and I were on the same page — I was going with what he was calling,” Below said. “I just tried to attack the strike zone and get ahead of guys.

“When I watched Charlie [Furbush] pitch Saturday, that’s what he did: get ahead and attack the zone. I was able to throw everything for strikes, and that helped me get ahead of the hitters.”

Below didn’t even reach a two-ball count until the fourth and didn’t have three balls against a batter until the fifth. He finished with 103 pitches thrown, including 72 strikes.

“For Duane to not get that win, that’s a bummer,” Nevin said. “Fastball location, curveball location, cutter and change-up — everything was good. And when he throws that curveball for strikes, especially to left-handed hitters, it’s neat to see.”

NOTES: The Mud Hens are expected to activate infielder Danny Worth from the disabled list today. To make room for him on the roster, infielder Cesar Nicolas was released. ... Outfielder Clay Timpner is expected to come off the disabled list soon. Nevin said Timpner will run the bases today and, if all goes well, will come off the disabled list tomorrow or Wednesday. ... Several Mud Hens wore pink yesterday to celebrate Mother’s Day. Cale Iorg wore pink cleats and used a pink bat, while Dirks wore black shoes with pink trim. ... Below said he left 16 tickets for family and friends but had roughly 60 well-wishers at Fifth Third Field yesterday. ... Charlotte manager Joe McEwing was ejected in the middle of the eighth inning for arguing with plate umpire Chris Ward.

Mud Hens rally in 9th to beat Charlotte - Toledo Blade

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Lehigh Valley shuts out Hens

IronPigs’ Sandberg managing in organization where he started

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

lehigh-valley-ryne-sandberg.jpg

Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg offers his view to the umpires after one of his players was ejected Monday night at Fifth Third Field. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Most baseball fans remember that Ryne Sandberg spent all 16 years of his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Cubs.

Sandberg, now the manager for Lehigh Valley, remembers that it was Philadelphia — the IronPigs’ parent club — that originally drafted him.

“It really is ironic,” Sandberg said before Monday’s contest at Fifth Third Field, where his team claimed a 1-0 victory over the Mud Hens.

“When things didn’t work out with the Cubs, the Phillies were the first call I got — within 24 hours of the news. They were calling to see what I wanted to do.

“There was an opening here, so it didn’t take me long to realize this was where I wanted to be.”

Sandberg retired following the 1997 season and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. But in 2007 he returned to the dugout and managed for four seasons in the Cubs’ minor-league system.

“I enjoy what I’m doing: I enjoy putting on the uniform and being around the players — and I enjoy competing,” Sandberg said when asked why he returned to managing. “I also enjoy honing my skills instructing, and teaching, and managing. I enjoy coming to the ballpark.

“But the biggest thing is that I’m having fun with what I’m doing.”

Sandberg managed Chicago’s Triple-A team in Des Moines last season, but did not get the job as Cubs manager this off-season. Soon after, he returned to the organization that drafted him in 1978.

“There’s still that philosophy of Phillies baseball,” said Sandberg, who spent four years in the Phillies’ minor-league system before the trade. “A lot of familiar faces — people that I got my start with and learned how to play the game from — are still involved with the Phillies, and there was a continuity that I fit right into.”

And Sandberg said that trade to Chicago reveals a message that his current team can learn.

“These players can look at me, and I can share my experience about playing good baseball and not worrying about the parent club,” he said. “There are scouts in the stands who might give them an opportunity [to play in the big leagues with another team], just like the Cubs gave me.”

Monday night Sandberg’s team got a strong performance from starter Ryan Feierabend and relievers Jason Grilli and Juan Perez to shut out the Hens for the second time in three days.

Toledo had runners on base in four of Feierabend’s six innings, but the Hens were hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position against the southpaw, who did not throw a pitch harder than 90 MPH.

“He is a crafty lefty whose pitches look good to hit, but the ball just disappears on you,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “I know how difficult those guys can be some times.”

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Mud Hens catcher Omir Santos tags out Lehigh Valley’s Delwyn Young at home plate in Monday night’s game at Fifth Third Field.

Not that the Hens didn’t have chances.

But a poor sacrifice bunt blunted a potential rally in the sixth, and Timo Perez was picked off second base with no one out in the ninth to thwart a potential comeback.

“In a one-run game, you have to execute,” Nevin said.

“You have to do the little things to win baseball games, and we just didn’t do those things.

“It’s not how many runners you get on base: It’s what you do when you get them there. The team that executes the best in one-run games is the team that is going to win.”

The lack of offense made a loser out of Toledo starter Andy Oliver, who gave up nine hits and three walks in seven innings but pitched out of trouble in every inning but the third. In that frame a single by Rich Thompson, a double by Kevin Frandsen that moved Thompson to third, and a sacrifice fly by Domonic Brown produced the game’s only run.

“I felt my fastball was a little elevated,” said Oliver, who struck out seven.

“When I was in a good count and needed to make a good pitch to put them away, I kind of left those up.

“And that’s where the hits were coming from.”

NOTES: Duane Below was International League Pitcher of the Week on Monday. The Britton, Mich., native allowed just three runs and nine hits in 14 innings while fanning a league-high 16. For the season, Below is 3-1, with a 2.97 ERA and has 31 strikeouts in 36.1 innings. ... Andy Dirks and Will Rhymes were not in Toledo’s starting lineup Monday. Nevin said he wanted to give both players a day off: Dirks had played in all 31 previous games for the Hens, while Rhymes had played in five straight games after his demotion from Detroit. ... Two disputed calls led to a pair of ejections. In the second Delwyn Young was called out at home on a double by Josh Barfield, and former Hen Eddie Bonine was ejected for arguing from the dugout. Then in the fifth the IronPigs’ Thompson was called for interference on a potential double play at second base, and Lehigh Valley pitching coach Rod Nichols was ejected.

Lehigh Valley shuts out Hens - Toledo Blade

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Toledo falls 8-1 to Lehigh Valley

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Toledo-s-Scott-Thorman.jpg

Toledo's Scott Thorman is tagged out at home plate by Lehigh Valley catcher Erik Kratz Wednesday night.

For the second straight year, Ben Guez was promoted to Toledo.

But that’s just about the only similarity between last season and this one for Guez, who joined the Mud Hens lineup for Wednesday night’s game at Fifth Third Field and had two hits in Toledo’s 8-1 loss to Lehigh Valley.

Last year Guez began the season in Hi-A Lakeland and was summoned to Toledo when injuries struck, jumping over Double-A even though he had never played a single game above Hi-A.

“Last year was kind of a fluke thing,” he said. “I came up for an injury, and some lucky things happened so I got to stay around for a long time.

“This year was a different story: I started in Double-A, had some success, and I was able to get promoted. It definitely feels as if I earned it this year, and it’s more gratifying that way.”

An outfielder, Guez hit .251 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 68 games for the Hens last season, but he called his first Triple-A experience “invaluable.”

“I couldn’t have done what I’ve done without my time here [last year],” he said. “The coaching staff here and the players here from last year taught me so much about the game that I didn’t know. And that made me a better player.

“I learned the mindset of how to approach every day and how to approach the game. I don’t think I really knew what I was doing mentally, and when you do that you run into good days and run into bad day and can’t troubleshoot when you go wrong.”

Guez used that experience to find success at Double-A Erie to start this season. He had a .340 average with the SeaWolves, third-best in the Eastern League, and had four home runs to go with 22 RBIs, tied for second-best in the league, as well as a league-high five triples.

“I was feeling comfortable there,” Guez said. “We had a great group of guys, and it was fun to come to the ballpark every day.

“I think on the field I was aggressive and wasn’t afraid to fail, just trying to put things together and see what happens.”

Toledo-s-Ben-Guez.jpg

Toledo’s Ben Guez had two hits in his first game with the Mud Hens this season after being called up from Double-A Erie.

Hits weren’t a problem for Guez and the Hens Wednesday night as Toledo banged out 13 hits, with every starter but Argenis Diaz collecting at least one.

The problem was that the Hens were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, scoring their lone run on a Scott Thorman homer in the sixth.

“I think if you get 13 hits, you should score more than one run,” manager Phil Nevin said. “But all-in-all, we did swing the bats well. Obviously the timely hit didn’t happen.

“When you’re down early, you try to get the big blast to get back in the game instead of sneaking out a run or two early. We just didn’t get that hit.”

Meanwhile, Lehigh Valley used an unusual bout of wildness from Hens starter Thad Weber — he came into the game having walked just 11 batters in 34.2 innings, but 10 of his first 11 pitches were called balls — to score four runs in the first.

“His M.O. is throwing strikes and pounding the zone with good stuff,” Nevin said of Weber. “He had some borderline pitches early that he didn’t get, and he needed to work from there.

“But our starters have come back from starts like this to throw well in their next start. I’ve watched him for over a year now, and he doesn’t have two starts in a row like that.”

The IronPigs scored another run in the fourth, then touched relievers Chris Oxspring and Fu-Te Ni for three runs in the sixth, aided primarily by three more walks.

NOTES: Before the game Lehigh Valley’s Kevin Frandsen was placed on the restricted list for violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. ... Clay Timpner, who was demoted to Double-A Erie after Tuesday’s game, instead asked for, and received, his release.

Toledo falls 8-1 to Lehigh Valley - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens snap losing streak, beat IronPigs 4-2

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mud-Hens-Danny-Worth.jpg

Toledo Mud Hens player Danny Worth hits a single to score Ben Guez against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs during the second inning.

The Mud Hens came into Thursday night’s game having lost three in a row and six of their last seven.

But there was one thing the Hens hadn’t lost: their willingness to fight through adversity. And that helped Toledo post a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Lehigh Valley at Fifth Third Field.

“Even though we’ve lost a few games here, we haven’t lost that [intensity],” Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve battled, we’ve played hard, and you see a lot of dirty uniforms.

“We’ve got a lot of guys grinding, and I’m proud of that. When you play like that, you’ll have more good runs than bad runs.”

Offensively, the Hens finished in double digits in hits for the second straight night with 12. The difference between Wednesday’s loss and Thursday night’s win was that several of those hits came in key situations and led to runs.

Toledo got a break when Lehigh Valley starter Eddie Bonine was ejected in the first inning for arguing an umpire’s call — IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg also was thrown out of the game for vehemently arguing the Bonine ejection. That meant Lehigh Valley was forced to use its bullpen early, and the Mud Hens took advantage to score three runs off Chance Chapman.

Ben Guez, Will Rhymes and Cale Iorg all singled to produce one run, and Omir Santos laid down a sacrifice to put runners on second and third with one out. Andy Dirks fell behind 1-2 but managed to lift a sacrifice fly to center that tied the game, and Danny Worth followed with a clutch two-out single to score Iorg with the go-ahead run.

“He fell behind early — I had him 2-0 and 3-1, so I was in good hitter’s counts,” Worth said. “I knew I would get something good to hit, so I tried to put an aggressive swing on it.”

The Mud Hens had been pressing in the first three games against the IronPigs, going 1-for-18 when batting with runners in scoring position. That was something Worth took as a challenge.

“That’s not something you thing about, but [hitting with runners in scoring position] is something that gives you a little extra energy when you’re up at the plate,” he admitted. “It takes a little mental toughness, a feeling of, ‘I’ve got to get this done.’

“If you watch guys at the next level, they do it all the time like it’s nothing.”

That rally helped the Hens overcome an early 2-0 deficit that occurred when Toledo starter Charlie Furbush gave up a first-inning two-run homer to Tagg Bozied.

“The first couple of innings I was leaving the ball up,” Furbush said. “I have to tip my cap to my defense, because they were making great plays behind me.

“I just had to make some adjustments, and luckily it worked out pretty well.”

The tide seemed to turn for the Hens in the top of the second when Furbush pitched out of a jam that saw the IronPigs push a runner to third with only one out. Furbush got a groundout that held the runner in place, then a flyout to end the inning, and the Hens scored three times in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good.

“It’s important to bounce back when a team jumps on you,” Worth said. “Luckily we put up a three-spot, and Furbush took it home for us.

“You know that if you give him some runs, he’s going to do well for you.”

After the second inning Furbush allowed just three baserunners in his final five scoreless innings of work. He finished with six strikeouts, evening his season’s record at 3-3 while lowering his ERA to 2.90.

“The good, front-of-the-rotation guys come back and throw a zero on the board in the second inning,” Nevin said. “Then we scored three, and we get the lead back.

“We saw it the other day with Jake Peavy: when you give up runs, but your offense comes back and gives you the lead, the good ones don’t give up the lead again. And Charlie did that, which showed me a lot about him.”

The Hens added a run in the sixth when Guez doubled, moved to third on a bunt single by Rhymes, and scored when Iorg hit into a double play.

Brendan Wise and Enrique Gonzalez both pitched a scoreless inning to close out the win, with Gonzalez earning his fourth save.

NOTES: Thursday marked the third time in five games that a Mud Hen opponent was ejected. Charlotte manager Joe McEwing was tossed on Sunday, while Bonine was ejected from the bench on Monday along with IronPigs pitching coach Rod Nichols. ... Worth and Rhymes each finished with three hits, while Guez had two, giving that trio eight of the team’s 12 hits. ... The Mud Hens fly to the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett Friday to begin an eight-game road trip with the first of four contests against the Braves. First pitch Friday is at 7:05 p.m.

Mud Hens snap losing streak, beat IronPigs 4-2 - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens pick up 2nd straight win

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — The Mud Hens rode the arm of Duane Below’s one-hitter en route to defeating the Gwinnett Braves 2-1 Friday night.

Below (4-1) picked up his fourth win of the season as he worked 7 innings, and allowed one run on a Gwinnett solo home run in the second.

He struck out six and walked two to improve to 4-1 on the mound this season.

Clete Thomas went 1 for 4 and contributed the go-ahead RBI in the fifth inning.

The win was Toledo’s (17-19) second straight after a three-game losing streak at the beginning of the week.

Gwinnett (19-15) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second after a solo shot by Brandon Hicks. The Hens retaliated and tied the game in the top of the fourth on a solo homer by Danny Worth.

Toledo took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Thomas’ single drove in Timo Perez for Thomas’ 12th RBI of the season.

The Hens loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, but no damage was done as Thomas struck out looking, and Cale Iorg flew out to end the inning.

Lester Oliveros was brought in to pitch in relief of Below and worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings to give Toledo the victory. It was Oliveros’ first save of the season.

He struck out two and walked one in his two innings of relief.

Toledo will play Gwinnett on Saturday night at 7:05. The Mud Hens return home for an eight game homestand against Pawtucket and Durham beginning May 21.

Mud Hens pick up 2nd straight win - Toledo Blade

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Toledo gets offensive in win

Hens pound out 17 hits against Gwinnett

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — The Mud Hens offense came alive Saturday night in their 13-1 victory over the Gwinnett Braves.

Danny Worth, Scott Thorman, and Max St-Pierre each contributed with three RBIs apiece as each player in the lineup recorded at least one hit in the victory — the team’s third in a row.

Coming into Saturday night’s contest, the Hens had scored just 12 runs in their previous seven games.

Andy Oliver (4-2) went seven innings, allowing just one run and three hits en route to picking up the win.

Toledo (18-19) jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Braves (19-16) in the second inning thanks in part to a RBI single by Argenis Diaz, an RBI double by St-Pierre, and a sacrifice fly by Will Rhymes.

The Hens lengthened their lead in the third as Thorman added a three-run home run in the third, while St-Pierre singled in Ben Guez to give the Mud Hens a commanding 7-0 lead.

Gwinnett did tally a run in the bottom half of the fifth, in the form of a solo homer off the bat of Stefan Garttrell, to make the score 7-1 in favor of Toledo.

The Braves threatened to score in the seventh with men on first and second with no one out but Oliver tiptoed his way out of trouble by sitting down the next three batters in order to kill the threat.

The Mud Hens added three more runs in the top of the eighth on a three-run homer off the bat of Worth to take a 10-1 lead.

Toledo piled on three more runs in the top of the ninth after RBI singles by Diaz and St-Pierre, and an RBI groundout by Rhymes to take a 13-1 lead.

Matt Hoffman worked a scoreless eighth and ninth innings to give the Hens their 18th win of the year.

Toledo will take on Gwinnett in the third game of their four-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:05 p.m.

The Mud Hens return home for an eight game homestand against Pawtucket and Durham from May 21-29.

Toledo gets offensive in win - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens back to .500 with 4th win in a row

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — The Mud Hens moved to the break-even mark Sunday thanks to their fourth consecutive victory, a 6-5 win over the Gwinnett Braves.

Toledo pounded out 14 hits, including three apiece by Argenis Diaz and Clete Thomas, to move to 19-19 overall and 13-7 on the road.

The game was a back-and-forth affair in the early innings, with the lead changing hands three times before the Hens took control for good in the sixth.

Omir Santos got Toledo on the board when he led off the third with a home run against Gwinnett starter Mike Minor, but the Braves bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of that inning off Hens starter Adam Wilk.

Shawn Bowman got that rally started with a single, then moved to third when Shawn McGill singled and took second when Thomas tried to throw Bowman out at third. Both runners came home on a two-out single by Ed Lucas.

The Hens retook the lead with two runs in the fourth. Diaz singled, then came around to score when Cale Iorg doubled and Braves left field Jose Constanza mishandled the ball. Thomas singled Iorg to third, and a sacrifice fly by Santos plated Iorg.

In the bottom of the fourth Gwinnett took a 4-3 on a 2-run home run by Brandon Hicks.

The Hens were able to make a winner out of Wilk (2-4), who allowed eight hits and four runs in five innings but did not walk a batter and struck out six by scoring twice in the sixth off reliever Anthony Varvaro.

Diaz opened the inning with a single, then scored on a double by Iorg. Thomas singled Iorg to third, and Iorg came home on a groundout by Santos.

Toledo plated a run in the seventh on an RBI double by Thomas.

Gwinnett got a run in the eighth, but Enrique Gonzalez pitched a scoreless ninth to claim his fifth save.

NOTE: OF Deik Scram was promoted from Double-A Erie to fill the roster spot of Andy Dirks, who was called up to Detroit. Scram, who hit .208 in 31 games for the Hens last season, was batting .293 with a homer and 12 RBIs in 19 games for the SeaWolves this season.

Mud Hens back to .500 with 4th win in a row - Toledo Blade

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Learning curve: Rhymes looks for positives in demotion

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

mud-hens-will-rhymes-toledo-detroit.jpg

Mud Hens second baseman Will Rhymes is hitting .286, with five RBIs, four runs scored, and two stolen bases in his first 11 games with Toledo after being demoted from Detroit on May 3.

It’s the yin and yang of baseball: for every success, there is an equal amount of disappointment.

For every pitcher who succeeds in striking someone out, there’s a hitter who experiences failure with a swing and a miss. Every batter who hits a home run tacks an earned run onto a pitcher’s ERA. One team’s victory means another team tastes defeat.

So it was with the success of Scott Sizemore, who hit .408 in his 23 games for the Mud Hens to earn a promotion to Detroit on May 3. Sizemore’s advancement meant that Will Rhymes, the incumbent second basemen who had batted just .221 in his 19 games with the Tigers, was sent down to Toledo.

“It was hard — it was frustrating,” Rhymes said of the demotion. “Everyone wants to get off to a good start, especially someone who is new to the big leagues.

“I’d had some success last year in a couple hundred at-bats, but when you make the team out of spring training you want to establish yourself so you can be there for a while. If there’s ever a time to be that way, that is the time.

“But baseball doesn’t work that way. You don’t pick the time you struggle or when you catch breaks.”

Last season Rhymes was the one who took advantage of the breaks when Sizemore hit poorly to begin the season and Carlos Guillen got hurt.

Rhymes played in 54 games with the Tigers at second and hit .304 with a home run, 19 RBIs, and 30 runs scored.

That fine finish, combined with a solid spring, helped him earn this year’s Opening Day roster spot as Detroit’s starting second baseman. Rhymes was batting just .221 in 19 games before he was sent to Toledo on May 3.

“It’s unbelievably frustrating to get that kind of opportunity and have things not go your way,” Rhymes said. “It’s hard to deal with, but that’s the nature of the game. That’s why we play 162 games and get 500 at-bats; 60 at-bats in this game just doesn’t mean anything.”

“I feel pretty good about the way I played defense, and to be honest I don’t think I swung the bat as badly as the numbers showed. I didn’t feel great early in the year, but things didn’t go my way. In my first at-bat of the year, I hit a liner off [Yankees starter] C.C. Sabathia and Curtis [Granderson] made a diving catch, and that’s the way it went for a while, unfortunately.”

It didn’t even help when Rhymes had a brief surge late in his time with the Tigers, collecting at least one hit in each of his last four games and going 5 for 14 to raise his batting average 41 points.

“They felt they had to make some moves, and I was the guy [to move],” Rhymes said. “[in Toledo] I’d like to get some confidence back and keep swinging the bat the way I did the final week I was up there and have some fun.”

Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said Rhymes will get plenty of work with the Hens.

“He’s going to get the majority of the time at second base,” Nevin said of Rhymes. “Right now he just needs to keep doing the things that got him up there: hitting and playing good defense.

“He’s a good player, and he knows what it takes to be successful in this game. And it doesn’t matter what level Will is at — as long as he has a baseball uniform on, he’s a guy who is going to give you 100 percent.”

Rhymes started slowly in his return to Toledo, hitting just .182 in his first six games. But a 3-for-5 day against Gwinnett yesterday helped lift his average to .286, and he already has five RBIs, four runs scored, and a pair of stolen bases in his first 11 games.

It shows that Rhymes is capable of returning to his level of last season, when he batted .305 and had 59 runs scored and 22 stolen bases in 95 games with the Hens to earn that promotion to Detroit.

“I didn’t lose confidence in my overall ability in the game, or anything like that,” Rhymes said. “I’d like to get back to a point where I’m really comfortable with where my swing is, and I’m seeing the ball well and everything.

“And that’s going to happen. I wasn’t playing every day up there, so playing every day down here, playing here against lefties, will get me back in the swing of playing every day.”

Learning curve: Rhymes looks for positives in demotion - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens get early start for victory

First 2 batters score; Furbush whiffs 8

BLADE STAFF

FORT MILL, S.C. -- It didn't take the Toledo Mud Hens much time to get back into the win column here Tuesday night. The Hens had a four-game winning streak halted in their final game on the road Monday at Gwinnett. But Toledo batters struck early on offense and Mud Hen pitcher Charlie Furbush had Charlotte batters striking out just as quickly on defense as Toledo won the opener of a four-game series, 8-3.

After the first two batters of the game, it was 2-0 Toledo as Will Rhymes led off with a single and Danny Worth followed with his third home run of the season.

In the meantime, Furbush, who leads the International League pitchers in strike outs, had the Knights finding nothing but air with their swings. He struck three in the first inning, two in the second and the first man up in the third to give him six strikeouts in the first seven outs recorded by Charlotte.

Scott Thorman sparked the 12-hit Toledo attack with a double and two home runs. Timo Perez was 3-for-5, Rhymes and Deik Scram 2-for-4.

The Hens added a single run in the fourth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh.

Centerfielder Clete Thomas stopped a Charlotte threat in the third when he caught a fly ball and cut down a Knight runner trying to advance from second to third for a doubleplay. The Knights then scored twice in the fourth and added a run off reliever Jose Ortega in the eighth.

Mud Hens get early start for victory - Toledo Blade

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Hens waste early lead

FORT MILL, S.C. — The Mud Hens saw a six-run fourth inning go to waste in an 10-7 loss at Charlotte Wednesday night.

The Knights scored three in the sixth and six in the eighth to claim the win.

Charlotte scored in the first on a two-out RBI single by Jordan Danks, but the Hens’ six-run rally erased that advantage.

Will Rhymes’ single and Danny Worth’s double set the table for Timo Perez, who lined a two-run double. One out later Scott Thorman launched his third home run in two days and eighth of the season.

Ben Guez followed with his first homer for the Hens, then Clete Thomas singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Argenis Diaz.

The Hens added a run in the fifth when Worth was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a single by Perez, and scored on a wild pitch.

After giving up that first-inning run, Toledo starter Duane Below held the Knights in check until the sixth when Danks doubled, Lastings Milledge walked, and former Hen Gookie Dawkins pounded his eighth home run of the year.

Charlotte completed its comeback in the eighth by sending 10 batters to the plate.

The key hits in that rally were a two-run double by Andrew Garcia that tied the game, a bases-loaded walk to Jim Gallagher that broke the tie, and a two-run single by Tyler Flowers. The two teams square off again tonight at 7:15.

Hens merchandise among top sellers in minor leagues

The Mud Hens continue to hold their perch among the top merchandise sellers, according to Minor League Baseball.

The national association released a list of the top 25 teams of 160 in licensed merchandise sales, and the Hens are on that list along with 11 other Triple-A teams, including six other members of the International League. The list was released alphabetically and was based on wholesale sales reported from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of 2010.

Hens waste early lead - Toledo Blade

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Big innings carry Charlotte past Hens

FORT MILL, S.C. -- A pair of four-run innings helped carry Charlotte to a 10-2 victory over the Mud Hens Thursday night.

The Knights scored four times in the second inning and four more in the seventh to beat the Hens for the second straight night.

Charlotte's four-run second off Toledo starter Andy Oliver began when Michael Restovich and Jordan Danks both singled. A double by Gookie Dawkins scored Restovich while sending Danks to third, then both Danks and Dawkins scored on a one-out double by Andrew Garcia.

Garcia moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Escobar.

Toledo scored its two runs in the sixth off starter Lucas Harrell.

Danny Worth reached base on a fielding error by Dawkins at third, then took second on a groundout by Timo Perez and scored on a double by Scott Thorman.

Ryan Strieby and Ben Guez both drew walks to load the bases and knock Harrell out of the box.

Reliever Gregory Infante struck out Deik Scram, but then threw a wild pitch that scored Thorman and put the tying runs in scoring position before Argenis Diaz grounded out.

The Knights broke the game open with their four-run seventh-inning off Hens reliever Lester Oliveros, who gave up home runs to Escobar, Dayan Viciedo and Restovich.

Charlotte added a pair of eighth-inning insurance runs off reliever Enrique Gonzalez, who gave up a two-out RBI double to Escobar, who had two hits and three RBIs, and a run-scoring single to Gallagher, who finished with three hits.

The Mud Hens and Charlotte conclude their four-game series Friday night, with first pitch set for 7:15 p.m.

Big innings carry Charlotte past Hens - Toledo Blade

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Mud Hens finish road stretch 5-3

Enlarge FORT MILL, S.C. — The Mud Hens won Friday night’s game against the Charlotte Knights, 2-1.

With the win, the Mud Hens went 5-3 on its eight-game home trip.

Ryan Strieby went 1 for 4, but his lone hit provided the go-ahead run in the sixth inning in the form of a solo homer, his fifth of the season.

Adam Wilk (3-4) was extremely effective and earned the win after going 7 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run on seven hits.

Will Rhymes got things started for the Mud Hens (21-22) in the first with a single.

Rhymes advanced to second on a single by Danny Worth and then eventually scored on a RBI ground out off the bat of Timo Perez.

Charlotte (19-21) knotted the game up at 1-1 in the bottom of the third, after a solo home run by Andrew Garcia.

Things would remained tied until the top of the sixth when Strieby blasted a solo shot that landed well beyond the left field fence to give the Hens a 2-1 advantage.

Brendan Wise came on in the eighth in relief of Wilk with two outs and a man on second and was able to record the final out of the inning to keep the Hens ahead at 2-1.

Enrique Gonzalez came out of the bullpen to work the ninth and promptly allowed a single by Tyler Flowers.

After a fly out, Jordan Danks doubled to left field. Flowers advanced to third and attempted to score on the double but a perfect relay from Scott Thorman to Worth to catcher Omir Santos nailed Flowers in an exciting play at the plate.

Gonzalez struck out former Mud Hen Gookie Dawkins to earn the save and give the Mud Hens the 2-1 win.

Danny Worth advanced his hitting streak to eight games in the win.

The Hens return home for an eight-game homestand starting tonight against the Pawtucket Red Sox.

First pitch for tonight’s game against the Paw Sox is scheduled for 7.

Mud Hens finish road stretch 5-3 - Toledo Blade

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Thorman powers Mud Hens’ comeback

Strieby has key RBI in 11th

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Toledo starter Thad Weber reacts after giving up a home run to Josh Reddick in the fourth inning. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Photo Reprint

The Mud Hens overcame the odds to claim a 5-4 victory over Pawtucket at Fifth Third Field Saturday night.

Toledo was a strike away from a loss before Scott Thorman slammed a three-run home run off the right-field foul pole. Then in the 11th inning Ryan Strieby’s single to right scored Danny Worth with the winning run to complete the comeback in the Hens’ first extra-inning game of the season.

“It’s more fun [to wait until the last out to win],” Strieby said with a smile on his face. “It was a great comeback and a great win for us.”

The Mud Hens’ game-winning rally in the 11th began when Will Rhymes beat out a slow roller into the hole at shortstop for a single. Worth laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Red Sox catcher Luis Exposito threw high to second and both runners were safe.

Rhymes was thrown out at third base on a sacrifice attempt by Timo Perez, setting the stage for Strieby’s big hit.

“[Pawtucket reliever Blake Maxwell] is tough because he throws from a weird arm angle,” Strieby said. “At first I had trouble picking it up, but I felt more comfortable as the at-bat went on.

“I knew with two strikes it was going to be tough, but I had to stay on his pitches and drive something the other way — and not get beat.”

Strieby fell behind Maxwell 1-2, but fouled off two pitches and ran the count full before lining the eighth pitch of the at-bat to right for a single. Worth easily beat right fielder Ryan Sheely’s throw to the plate for the winning run.

None of those heroics would have been possible without Thorman’s game-tying hit in the bottom of the ninth. Rhymes and Worth got that rally started by drawing walks from Red Sox reliever Michael Bowden, and with two outs Thorman slammed the first pitch he saw from Bowden off the foul pole to tie the game.

“That was huge,” Strieby said. “We were having good at-bats all game, but we weren’t being rewarded. Scott came up and hit a huge home run.”

The game was scoreless until the fourth, when Josh Reddick slammed Thad Weber’s second pitch of the inning for his 12th home run of the season. Reddick stands third in the International League in that category.

The Red Sox used a three-run seventh inning to knock out Weber. Former Hen Brent Dlugach got the rally started with a ground-ball down the first-base line for a double, and a single by Tony Thomas pushed Dlugach to third.

Exposito singled to left to score Dlugach and send Thomas to third, and then the wheels came off for Weber. Jose Iglesius laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Weber’s throw to first was high, and the error left the bases loaded with none out. Weber then hit Sheely with a pitch to force in a run.

Jose Ortega came out of the Mud Hens’ bullpen and allowed a sacrifice fly to Che-Hsuan Lin for another run, but escaped further trouble thanks to a slick double play.

Thorman powers Mud Hens? comeback - Toledo Blade

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Double plays spell trouble for Hens

BY RYAN AUTULLO

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Lars-Anderson-Omir-Santos.jpg

Pawtucket’s Lars Anderson is tagged out at home by Toledo back-up catcher Omir Santos, who blocks the plate in the ninth inning. Anderson singled then attempted to score on a double by Michael McKenry, but Ryan Strieby’s throw from first beat Anderson to home. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge

Ryan Strieby walked to the batter’s box in the bottom of the ninth inning with a chance to do something special for the second time in less than 24 hours.

A home run could have ended the game, and a double play would’ve done the same. The way things had gone all day for the Mud Hens, the latter was the more likely occurrence.

The sharply-hit ball Strieby drove up the middle of the field was stopped by Pawtucket second baseman Tony Thomas, whose diving stab and subsequent flip of the ball to short stop Jose Iglesias started the fourth double play turned in the game by the Red Sox, who won 2-1 on Sunday.

“When you hit the ball hard at someone and they come up with it, a lot of times it’s going to be a double play,” said Strieby, who drove in the game-winning run in the 11th inning of Saturday’s series opener.

Of the four double plays the Mud Hens hit into, all of them ended an inning yielding zero runs.

None was more damaging than the line drive Cale Iorg hit back at Pawtucket starting pitcher Tony Pena Jr. with the bases loaded in the fifth. Pena, a former Major League infielder, threw to first to end the inning.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to see more pictures from the Mud Hens game.

“We didn’t swing the bats bad, I think they just pitched well,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said.

“Sometimes you have to tip your hat to somebody, and Pena came in and did a great job for them. He threw the ball well, kept our guys off balanced, and when we did get opportunities, we hit balls right at people.”

Both teams used a starting pitcher who normally doesn’t start, and in both cases, it went well. Pena, who has played in 327 MLB games as a position player, has been used as a reliever this year, but yet he worked six innings yesterday. Pena (2-2) did not allow a run and was throwing a no-hitter with one out in the fifth inning when the Hens (22-23) put together a run of three straight ground ball singles.

Hens lefty Ramon Garcia made just his second start of the year, filling in for Charlie Furbush who was recently recalled to Detroit. Garcia, who was called up Saturday from Double-A Erie lasted 4? innings, which pleased Nevin. A change on the mound was made after Garcia allowed his second of two fifth-inning doubles.

“He threw the ball great today,” Nevin said.

“If you would have told me we’ll get 4 2/3 out of him and only give up one run, I would have told you we would’ve won the game.”

With the Hens off on Wednesday, Nevin plans to skip the turn in the rotation currently manned by Garcia. Nevin said he didn’t know what the organization’s plans are for Garcia.

The winning run came when Pawtucket’s Thomas smashed the second pitch of the game from Hens reliever Matt Hoffman over the left field wall.

Strieby nearly hit a home run to right with no outs in the seventh that would’ve tied the game but instead he was stranded at second after a double. Scott Thorman put the Hens on the board with a RBI ground out in the inning.

Pawtucket (22-21) almost extended its lead in the ninth on a double to right by catcher Michael McKenry. Lars Anderson tried to score from first and probably should have as he beat the relay throw from first baseman Strieby.

But Hens back up catcher Omir Santos shielded Anderson from touching the plate before applying the tag.

“The umpire had the right call,” Nevin said. “[santos] blocked him off the plate, made a good tag, and it was just a heck of a play.”

Double plays spell trouble for Hens - Toledo Blade

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Dlugach returns to Toledo and helps PawSox rip Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Mud Hens third baseman Danny Worth gets the throw late as Pawtucket's Tony Thomas slides in safely. THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Brent Dlugach has dealt with a fair amount of adversity in his baseball career.

So the spring training injury that the former Mud Hen suffered this year was just another obstacle to overcome. And Dlugach, now playing for Pawtucket, seems to be on the road back after collecting two hits and two RBIs in his team’s 12-2 win over the Hens at Fifth Third Field Monday night.

“I think whenever you deal with an injury it’s just as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing,” Dlugach said. “I tried to keep a positive attitude through it all, and I tried to embrace the steps as hurdles you have to cross.

“I’m a big believer that you have to work for anything you get, and I’ve had to work through a lot of adversity and obstacles in my career.”

Dlugach played for Toledo in 2006 when the Hens won the Governors’ Cup, then came back from two injury-riddled seasons to play for the Hens in 2009-10, earning a spot on the International League’s postseason all-star team in 2009.

But last November Dlugach was traded to Boston.

“It was one of those deals where your whole world is flipped upside down,” he said. “It was one of those deals where I spent six years with the Tigers, so there were a lot of emotions going through my mind.

“Initially, I thought about my former teammates and coaches, and how I would miss them. Once I settled down, my thought was that there wasn’t a better organization to be traded to than Boston because of its history.”

Dlugach didn’t spend much time in spring training with the Red Sox, though. In his third spring training game he injured his shoulder diving for a ground ball.

Dlugach worked on a rehab that has allowed him to join Pawtucket less than two weeks ago. In his first nine games with the Red Sox he has hit .313 while seeing time at second base, third base, and shortstop.

"My shoulder feels great,” he said. “I’m starting to feel better at the plate, because I didn’t get a lot of at-bats in extended spring.

“I need to get back into baseball shape, get back into the daily grind.”

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Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager, left, and catcher Omir Santos approach pitcher Jose Ortega in the ninth inning. THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Photo Reprints

The 28-year-old Tennessean has become a utility player for Pawtucket since Jose Iglesias, one of Boston’s top minor-league prospects, will see extensive playing time at shortstop.

“I’m looking forward to playing a lot of second base and third base,” Dlugach said. “I’m still learning those positions because I played mostly shortstop here in Toledo.

“But the more positions I can play, the more value I have to a team. And it keeps me fresh: I have to come in every day and look at the lineup and see where I’m playing.”

Dlugach had a single in the third and struck a key blow in the ninth inning that broke open Monday’s contest. With Toledo trailing just 3-2, Dlugach came to the plate with one out and a runner on third and singled through a drawn-in infield.

That hit opened the floodgates as the next eight Red Sox hitters behind Dlugach all reached base in the nine-run rally.

“It was a great baseball game — for eight innings,” Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought we would have a chance to come back in the ninth and get everyone excited, but it got away from us.”

That late rally ruined a fine effort by Hens starter Duane Below, who allowed just seven hits and three runs — only two of which were earned — in the first eight innings.

“His pitch count was down, he was efficient, and he threw everything for strikes,” Nevin said of Below. “It seems to me that each time he comes out, he’s getting better and better.

“Staying at 100 pitches for eight innings was pretty impressive.”

Toledo got a run in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Timo Perez, and Omir Santos slammed his second home run of the season in the eighth to cut the lead to a single run.

But that deficit was wiped out by the Red Sox rally that had Nevin warming up DH Scott Thorman in the bullpen just in case.

“It hurts, but it kind of becomes a laugher,” Nevin said. “I’m glad we get to come out so early [and put this game behind us]. We were starting to swing the bats better, and I hope it carries over.”

NOTES: The Mud Hens and Red Sox finish their four-game series Tuesday in a game that will start at 10:30 a.m. ... Before the game the Tigers called up pitcher Enrique Gonzalez and sent pitcher Brayan Villareal to the Hens. Villareal will become a starter for Toledo, but his spot in the rotation has yet to be determined.

Dlugach returns to Toledo and helps PawSox rip Hens - Toledo Blade

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Hens lose both game and players

BY JOHN WAGNER

BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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Mud Hens starting pitcher Andy Oliver fires a pitch against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Oliver threw just two innings before being pulled and learning he was promoted and will start for Detroit on Saturday. THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Photo Reprints

Playing a game at 10:30 in the morning wasn’t the only unusual thing happening at Fifth Third Field on Tuesday.

The Mud Hens saw two members of their starting rotation get called up — one before the game, one after he had thrown 38 pitches — in a crazy contest that visiting Pawtucket eventually won 3-2 in 10 innings.

Before the game Detroit called up Adam Wilk to take the spot of Phil Coke, who was placed on the *disabled list. In that same release, the Tigers announced that Andy Oliver would make Coke’s scheduled start Saturday against Boston.

At the time, Oliver didn’t know about the promotion: he was on the mound pitching for the Hens.

“[Toledo manager Phil] Nevin told me that [brayan] Villareal was going to be throwing a bullpen, so don’t worry about it,” Oliver said. “In the third inning Nevin came out and took me out — and told me [i would start for Detroit Saturday].

“I had no idea.”

Nevin admitted that being able to deliver the good news to two of his pitchers was one of the best parts of his job as manager.

“I’m happy for them, because they both worked very hard while they were here,” Nevin said. “[Oliver] is ready to go: He’s learned a lot from last year and made a lot of improvements. I think the experience of having been there last year means he’s going to do just fine.

“And that was a fun call to make [to Wilk]. When a guy isn’t expecting it, that’s neat. He was excited, and I’m sure he’ll have a good night.”

Wilk was 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts for the Mud Hens, while Oliver was 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA after giving up one run on four hits in two innings of work on Tuesday.

The bad news caused by the pair of promotions Tuesday was two-fold: first, having Oliver pitch just two innings meant the Toledo bullpen would have to cover the remaining innings.

Fortunately, several Hens relievers pitched well: Villareal did not allow a baserunner and struck out three in his three scoreless innings, while Matt Hoffman gave up only an unearned run in the sixth and Brendan Wise also had three scoreless frames.

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Pawtucket's Matt Sheely steals second as Mud Hens second baseman Argenis Diaz can't handle the high throw from catcher Max St-Pierre THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Photo Reprints

“I thought Villareal was really good in his first [Triple-A] game,” Nevin said. “He got out of a jam, then pitched well after that. Hoffman gave up a run, but he minimized the damage and gave us a chance to win.

“I thought Brendan Wise was outstanding, giving us three innings. I didn’t really have much pitching, so to throw the number of pitches [he did] was big.”

The second pitching problem is obvious: who will start for the Hens when they begin a four-game series against Durham Thursday?

More on that in a moment. Nevin’s biggest problems in Tuesday’s loss were a defense that committed three errors, two of which resulted in runs, and an offense that failed to take advantage of 12 hits and seven walks.

“In a tight, one-run game, we uncharacteristically made some mistakes defensively that cost us,” Nevin admitted. “They executed better than we did. They made plays.”

Pawtucket scored a run in the third on a triple by Matt Sheely and a double by Ronald Bermudez, but Villareal pitched out of a two-on, no-out jam. In the sixth, an error by Toledo’s Argenis Diaz on a potential double-play grounder eventually led to a run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick.

In the 10th inning Hens reliever Lester Oliveros gave up a double, single, and intentional walk to load the bases with none out. With the infield in close, Tony Thomas hit a grounder to third and Danny Worth threw home to force out the lead runner.

But a throw to first by catcher Omir Santos was too close to the runner and Ryan Strieby couldn’t catch it. Instead it rolled past him, allowing Reddick to score the game-winning run from second.

The Hens took an early lead with a run in the first off Pawtucket starter Andrew Miller, the former Detroit first-round draft pick. With two outs and none on Ben Guez drew a walk, and when Strieby’s double down the left-field line rolled under the ball boy’s chair, Guez sped around the bases and scored.

In the second inning Deik Scram hustled on a sinking liner to right and legged out a double, then came around to score on a two-out double by Will Rhymes.

But Toledo was just 2 for 9 when batting with runners in scoring position, and stranded a season-high 15 baserunners, including at least one in every inning except the fifth.

NOTES: Toledo will have Wednesday off before beginning a four-game series with Durham at Fifth Third Field Thursday starting at 10:30 a.m. ... Nevin said the Mud Hens’ rotation would include RHP Thad Weber Thursday, LHP Ramon Garcia on Friday, and LHP Duane Below on Saturday. Nevin said a determination on Sunday’s starter will be made Thursdayor Friday. Detroit manger Jim Leyland said Wilk probably will return to Toledo when Oliver is activated for Thursday’s game and could return to the rotation. ... To make room for Wilk on the Tigers’ 40-man roster, Hens reliever Robbie Weinhardt was designated for assignment.

Hens lose both game and players - Toledo Blade

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