It was “Fight Night” at Skeldon Stadium.
The Norfolk Tides beat the Mud Hens 5-3 last night in a game that was a sideshow to the main event: a brawl featuring Toledo's Shane Loux and the Tides' Jorge Toca.
The fight came in the sixth inning, when Loux threw a pitch over the head of Toca. Even as home plate umpire Greg Williams signaled that Loux was ejected, Toca charged the mound.
The fight brought both benches to the middle of the diamond, but only Loux and Toca were ejected.
Hens manager Bruce Fields said Toca's fourth-inning home run, a long blast that hit the scoreboard in left, precipitated the brawl. “He styled and profiled after he hit (the home run),” Fields said. “But you still don't want to throw at a guy's head. He (Toca) took exception and charged the mound.”
The fight came midway through a game that saw the Tides break out to a four-run lead, only to see the Hens cut the margin to a single run.
Norfolk scored three runs in the third on four singles sandwiched inside a pair of walks, with Alex Escobar's two-run single the key hit. Toca's home run in the fourth made a loser of Loux (7-5), who had won his four previous decisions.
Loux last lost on May 27 to Norfolk and Doug Linton, last night's starter for the Tides. He held the Hens in check until the fourth, when Chris Wakeland's second home run in as many days broke the ice. Brian Rios followed with a single, then came around to score on a double by Giomar Guevara.
In the fifth Jermaine Allensworth led off with a homer, his second in as many days.
After that home run Linton was solid until the seventh, when a blown umpire's call killed a potential Hens' rally. With two outs Allensworth beat out an infield single, and Rich Becker reached on an error by Norfolk shortstop Carlos Hernandez.
Pedro Santana hit a grounder in the hole at short, and Hernandez's throw to second base arrived after Becker slid into the bag. But third-base umpire Mike Van Vleet called Becker out, and a bases-loaded opportunity was missed.
“I thought Rich beat the throw, but he (the umpire) didn't think so,” Fields said. “It's a key situation and you'd like to get the call, but you don't always get it.”
The Tides added an insurance run in the seventh for Linton, a former teammate of Fields' while both were at Syracuse in 1991. He earned the win while relievers Dan Serafini and Jerrod Riggan shut down the Hens in the final two innings; Riggan claimed his ninth save.
“That's what veteran guys can do,” Fields said of Linton. “He hit his spots, he changed speeds, and he handcuffed us early (in the game). He pitched well.”
Tonight the Hens look to set a record for consecutive road wins when they begin a two-game series in Columbus.
The Hens, winners of 10 consecutive road games, will send Mike Maroth (5-6) to the mound to face the Clippers' Brett Jodie (7-4) starting at 7:05 p.m.
NOTES: The Mud Hens have added infielder Trace Coquillette to the roster. Coquillette, who hit .208 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 55 games for Buffalo, will join the team in Columbus tonight ... Third baseman Brian Rios bruised a finger on a hit off the bat of Norfolk's Tony Tarasco in the third inning. Rios left the game after scoring in the fourth and is expected to miss tonight's game ... When Rios left the game, Kurt Bierek was forced to play third for the Hens. Third base is the fourth position Bierek has played this season after seeing time at first base, right field and left field ... Lyle Mouton, who strained a hamstring in Thursday's game with Norfolk, is still day-to-day. He did not play last night.