SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Toledo manager Bruce Fields has been preaching that the series with Syracuse comes down to pitching.
Last night, the Mud Hens had the pitching and the SkyChiefs did not.
Toledo starter Nate Cornejo (3-3) earned his third consecutive victory as the Mud Hens defeated Syracuse 7-3 to split the four-game International League series.
“Cornejo battled and made pitches when he had to,” Fields said. “He mixed his pitches well and except for the home run made very few mistakes.”
Cornejo, who struck out seven, had such command of his pitches that the SkyChiefs' Josh Phelps, currently leading the IL in home runs and extra-base hits, was called out on strikes three times.
The SkyChiefs' Jayson Werth did tag Cornejo for a home run in the fifth inning.
“The home run was a changeup I left up out over the plate and it was a mistake on my part,” Cornejo said. “I'm not where I want to be, but I'm feeling better. I had good velocity and my arm felt good. I can get three of my pitches over for strikes and that is good and can only get better. All I want to do is help the team win.”
Phelps unloaded on Oscar Henriquez in the ninth inning with his 23rd homer to the deepest part of the park.
Toledo's Derek Nicholson hit Syracuse starter Chris Baker's first pitch of the fourth over the right-field fence snapping a 1-1 tie.
Craig Monroe launched a 2-2 pitch later in the inning into the Hens' bullpen in left field.
Omar Infante singled and scored in the fifth inning on Jarrod Patterson's single.
Monroe almost had his second homer during the sixth, hitting the top of the 10-foot wall in right-center field for a leadoff double. The walls everywhere else in P&C Stadium are eight feet high.
Craig Wilson, who doubled later in the inning, has now hit safely in 13 of his past 14 games.
“Timely hits and good baserunning helped our pitchers tonight,” Fields said. “Quality at-bats, at the right time. It all came together tonight.”
Baker (4-6) took the loss, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits in six innings.
Andres Torres walked and scored in the seventh on a wild pitch. Nicholson also walked in the inning and scored on a sacrifice fly. The scoring in the seventh came off Syracuse's Robbie Crabtree, who gave up two runs while walking three and throwing a wild pitch in just two-thirds of an inning.
Infante made a great play in the eighth, stabbing the ball while going to his left and then, on his stomach, flipping to Wilson at second before a relay to first completed a double play to end the inning.
“The guys made some great plays behind me and that takes some of the pressure off when you're pitching, knowing they'll bail you out. We're just out here having fun right now.” Cornejo said.