Had someone conducted a survey in the Mud Hens locker room Friday to see who the team would most like to see hit a walk-off home run, the vote would have slanted heavily in favor of a hard-luck veteran.
"There are 24 [other] guys in that room and I promise you would have had 24 John Lindsey answers," manager Phil Nevin said.
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The probability was slim. Lindsey, who is accustomed to hitting in warm weather in April, has been batting just .088. Nevin called Lindsey’s blast in the ninth inning "a perfect moment."
The 36-year-old Lindsey drove the first pitch of his ninth inning at-bat well beyond the 406-foot wall in center field, giving the Hens their second win of the day over Columbus at Fifth Third Field. He received a long hug from his manager soon after crossing home plate.
"Good things happen to good people," Nevin said. "John Lindsey is a leader in that room and he’s one of the best people you’ll know."
Lindsey’s three extra-bases hits — which matches his number of total hits before Friday — helped the Hens to wins of 3-1 and 4-3. The first game picked up in the top of the fifth from Thursday’s rain-suspended contest. The night cap was scheduled to go seven innings, went nine, and might have gone longer without Lindsey’s first bomb of the year, a two-run blast off reliever Preston Guilmet. It came after Columbus tacked on a run in the top of the frame, its third time scoring with two outs.
"I was just trying to hunt the heater," Lindsey said. "When you’re struggling you have to try to hit that fastball."
Lindsey was 3-of-34 with a double before his awakening. The slow start marked a steep decline from a year ago when he batted .310 in the minors with 161 hits, 36 homers, and 111 RBI. Most of that damage, though, came in Mexico, New Mexico, and Toledo in the summertime. In other words, Lindsey likes to hit in warm weather. A space heater occupied the Hens’ dugout Friday, and that’s as toasty as Lindsey was going to get.
His triple to lead off the fifth inning of the first game gave him confidence, he said, because he made solid contact, something that has eluded him. He ended up scoring on Bryan Holaday’s double to go up 3-0.
"We know what he’s capable of," Holaday said. "We saw it last year. Go look at his numbers. He’s always been there."
Lindsey’s opposite-field RBI double in the fourth inning of the second game put the Hens in front 2-1, a lead they relinquished in the sixth on an unearned run that followed a Kevin Russo throwing error.
Jose Ortega (1-0) pitched the final two innings for the win. Starter Shawn Hill did his job, going the full seven innings of regulation and allowing one earned run on six hits.
Luke Putkonen (1-0) allowed one earned run in three innings for the win in game one. His only blemish was serving up a two-out RBI triple to Adam Abraham in the sixth.
Bruce Rondon pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.
Columbus' Daisuke Matsuzaka, who walked eight a day earlier, fell to 0-1.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6160 or onTwitter @AutulloBlade.