Kurt Bierek hit a pair of home runs to power the Mud Hens to an 8-7 victory over the Richmond Braves at Skeldon Stadium last night.
But make no mistake: one of Bierek's home runs was more valuable than the other.
And believe it or not, the more valuable homer wasn't the one that came in the sixth, giving the Hens the lead for good.
No, the more valuable homer came in the third when the Hens found themselves trailing the Braves 5-0. Richmond had just scored four runs with two outs in the top of the third, and the Hens easily could have been deflated.
But after Giomar Guevara and Lyle Mouton opened the bottom of the third with singles, the left-handed-hitting Bierek faced Richmond starter Damian Moss, a southpaw.
Bierek fell behind 1-2 before fouling off three pitches in working the count full. Then Bierek launched that 3-2 pitch over the right-field fence for a three-run blast that lifted the Hens back into the game.
“I was up there battling, just trying to get a ball in the air,” Bierek said. “I knew I didn't need a hit (with a runner on third). A home run was the furthest thing from my mind.”
But that home run was just the thing to get the Hens' offense started, said Toledo manager Bruce Fields. “We needed it,” Fields said of the homer. “In the past we have struggled at times when we're down 5-0.
“Bierek's first homer got us back into the game early and gave us time to scratch and claw and tie it up. That was a big home run.”
In the fifth, the Hens tied the game on a squeeze bunt by David Lindstrom and a two-out RBI single by Jermaine Allensworth.
Then Bierek hammered his second homer, a two-run shot following a walk to Mouton by Richmond reliever Aaron Small to start the sixth. Bierek's two home runs and five RBIs both tied the Hens' single-game highs for a player this season.
“I had the same approach (on the second home run),” Bierek said. “It was a good pitch, down and in, but I just put a good swing on it.”
The Hens added another run in the sixth on a single by Brian Rios and an RBI triple by Lindstrom.
That run proved to be huge when the Braves, who have had at least 14 hits in all five games they have played at Skeldon this season, scored twice in the seventh to cut the lead to a single run.
But the Hens' bullpen, which allowed just two runs in 61/3 innings of work, made it stand up for Toledo's fourth victory in the last five games. Tommy Phelps earned the victory while Matt Perisho claimed his seventh save.
The Hens conclude this two-game series with the Braves today at 2 p.m., with Adam Bernero (3-8) facing Richmond's Marc Valdes (6-3).
NOTES: Every starter in the game had at least one hit except Hens second baseman Trace Coquillette. ... Guevara had a pair of hits last night and has 13 hits on the homestand for a .361 batting average in that span. But he's not as hot as Allensworth, who had two hits last night and is hitting .429 for the homestand. ... Phelps' 31/3 innings of work tied his longest outing of the season, which came June 12 at Pawtucket. ... The outfield clock at Skeldon Stadium stuck at 9:46, but don't be fooled - last night's game lasted 3:09. ... The longest nine-inning Hens game this season (3:28) came at Skeldon on June 14 when Toledo beat Richmond 15-9.