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Light-hitting Elvis Pena entered yesterday's game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement.
In the eighth, he belted a two-run, game-winning homer over the left-field fence on a 1-2 pitch from Mud Hens reliever Matt Perisho.
Pena's first game-winning round-tripper since 1999 - and just his 15th since turning professional in 1994 - carried the Indianapolis Indians to a 6-5 victory over the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field.
“I'm not a home run hitter, so this feels great,” Pena said.
Pena's homer left the park almost as quickly as Perisho (4-3) did afterward. Pena's blast also stunned the sell-out crowd of 10,300 fans.
“When I got two strikes, I was looking to make contact and hit the ball somewhere,” he said. “I was looking for an off-speed pitch, but [Perisho] threw a fastball, high and in. I got good wood on it.”
Until yesterday, Toledo, which had rallied from a 4-0 deficit to take a 5-4 lead, had been 57-6 when on top after seven innings.
But the 5-11, 155-pound Pena, who played for Mud Hens manager Bruce Fields in the Dominican Republic in the off-season, changed that with one swing of the bat. His two-out homer plated Jon Zuber, who had reached on first baseman Eric Munson's throwing error, and made a winner of reliever Shane Nance (2-0).
“It's a tough game to lose, especially with where we came from,” Fields said. “We were one strike away. I'm not going to sit here and second-guess Matt because he has been solid for us the whole time. It's just one of those things that happens.”
Pena's heroics aside, the Mud Hens still had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, advancing a runner to third base with two outs. But Indy center fielder Chris Jones ran down Omar Infante's long fly ball on the warning track for the final out, which dropped Toledo's record to 1-44 when trailing after eight innings.
“I didn't think [Infante's hit] was going out,” Fields said. “I was just hoping it got down and [Jones] couldn't run under it and catch it. It hung up just enough for him to go get it.”
Despite the setback, Toledo remained in first place in the International League's West Division - 11/2 games ahead of the Louisville Bats. The Hens have been alone in first place 20 days this year and have been tied for the top spot twice.
Toledo starter Shane Loux, who had been 9-2 with a 3.39 ERA at home, fell behind 4-0 after 41/2 innings yesterday.
Jim Rushford hit a two-run double into the gap in left-center in the fifth, scoring Brian Moon, who had led off with a double, and Jones, safe on catcher's interference. However, Rushford was thrown out by Hens left fielder Craig Monroe trying to stretch his extra-base hit into a triple.
The Indians also scored twice in the third on Rushford's RBI double and Jones' RBI triple.
Loux, who had captured six of his last eight decisions, worked 61/3 innings, allowing nine hits and four runs, three earned.
The Mud Hens went on top 5-4 in the seventh after pinch-hitter Jarrod Patterson singled against reliever Robert Marquez. Patterson, who extended his hitting streak to seven games, moved up on a balk and sacrifice bunt and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Infante.
Toledo had tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth. Monroe opened with a double to deep center and Munson hit a run-scoring single to right.
Munson moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Craig Wilson's bloop single that bounced out of the glove of a sliding Rushford.
Brian Rios' two-run single in the fifth had trimmed Indy's lead in half. The hit chased home Mike Rivera and Wilson, who slid around Indians catcher Moon and then tagged home with his right hand.
Monroe had three of the Hens' 11 hits; Monroe two.