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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2001

Richmond marches over Mud Hens

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

With their eight-game winning streak ended a night earlier, the Mud Hens ran their new (losing) string to two last night with a 6-2 loss to the Richmond Braves before a crowd of 9,061 at Skeldon Stadium.

The Braves, losers of 11 of 14 games before snapping Toledo's streak with a 10-1 win here Friday, hammered out 13 hits last night and look to pin a third straight loss on the Hens (28-39) in today's 2 p.m. series finale.

Richmond's recent offensive surge, which has produced 43 hits in the first three games of this series, was joined by a mix of solid pitching and defense last night.

Braves starter Mark Valdes - helped by three of the four double plays turned by his infield - blanked Toledo for five innings until Rich Becker's solo home run in the sixth. Valdes (4-3) went seven innings, throwing 100 pitches and allowing seven hits.

His Toledo counterpart did not fare so well.

After a string of six straight effective starts, Toledo right-hander Mark Johnson (6-6) finally hit a snag. His ill-fated 90-pitch outing included 13 hits and all six Brave runs.

It took Johnson 50 pitches to get through the first two innings, yielding eight hits and a 4-0 Brave lead.

A Jesse Garcia double and George Lombard's two-out single produced a Braves run in the first, and five hits and a walk led to three more in the second. The big blow was a two-run homer from Marcus Giles.

“We're a good hitting team,” said Garcia, who was 4-for-5 with two doubles, “and everybody's starting to come into their own, starting to see the ball well and hitting it very good. When things are going well you just have to get as many as you can.”

Johnson had worked 391/3 innings over his prior six starts, allowing 32 hits and nine earned runs for a 2.06 ERA and a 4-1 record.

He threw seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 Hens win over Pawtucket on May 12, and tossed a complete-game 3-0 shutout against Ottawa May 17.

But, like the Hens, who saw their eight-game winning streak end in a 10-1 loss to Richmond a night earlier, Johnson was perhaps due for a letdown.

“It seems like they've had 50 hits in three games,” Toledo manager Bruce Fields said. “We've got to do a better job of pitching. MJ's pitch selection is what hurt him early. He had a couple guys two strikes and gave up base hits.

“But Mark's probably thrown the ball better than anybody on the staff up until this point in the season. He's been the most consistent. You're going to run into nights when you don't have your best stuff, or you try to throw a pitch in a certain location and it doesn't get to that spot and you get hit. Tonight was one of those nights for him.”

Richmond (30-37) added a run in the fourth when Lombard's two-out triple to the corner in right scored Michael Carter.

Hen left fielder Chris Wakeland hit a bases-empty homer with one out in the ninth off Richmond reliever Aaron Small for the final margin.

NOTES: The much traveled Becker, signed to a minor league contract by the Hens yesterday, went 2-for-4, including the sixth-inning homer as Toledo's DH last night. ... Last night's home crowd was the largest since 9,717 attended on opening night.



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