NORFOLK, Va. - The Toledo Mud Hens saw way too much of Esix Snead last night.
In the first game of a doubleheader, the speedy center fielder made three game-altering plays for the Norfolk Tides in a 5-3 victory at Harbor Park.
In the nightcap, Snead hammered a two-run homer and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly as Norfolk swept the twin bill with a 9-5 victory.
As the night went on, it became obvious that if the Mud Hens didn't hit the ball out of the park, there was a very good chance Snead would catch it.
“I had a guy named Glenn Barker who played for me a couple of years in the minors and he seemed to make plays like that every day,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “It seemed at times like he was worth two or three runs a game. They got that kind of play from Snead tonight.”
In the third inning, Snead ran down a 380-foot shot by Toledo's Danny Klassen, catching the ball in stride at the fence in front of the Mud Hens' bullpen.
In the fourth, he made a leaping catch against the fence in right-center on a shot by Ernie Young.
Then in the sixth, Snead made a diving catch in the gap of a line drive that was tailing away from him off the bat of Warren Morris.
As for degree of difficulty, that one took top prize.
“I just got a good jump on it,” Snead said. “For a moment, I lost it in the lights. But I just kept running and found it again on the other side of the bank of lights.”
The only lead the Mud Hens had all night was short-lived. Kevin Witt's two-run homer in the first to deep right field provided a 2-0 lead. But the Tides jumped all over Toledo starter Andy Van Hekken in the second inning.
Van Hekken came in with a 43.20 earned-run average after not making it out of the second inning in his first start of the season. He almost failed again.
Norfolk (5-3) had runners on second and third after Prentice Redman and Snead pulled off a double steal. Virgil Chevalier delivered a run-scoring single to right and Jose Reyes tripled off the fence in left-center as the Tides took a 3-2 lead.
Reyes scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Jorge Velandia. Raul Gonzalez homered to left on a 2-2 pitch from Van Hekken and the Tides led 5-2.
The Mud Hens cut into the lead in the fourth, manufacturing a run when Witt had a broken-bat single to left, went to second on a groundout by Morris, then came home on a double over the third-base bag by Cody Ross.
“A center fielder like Esix can make a bad night good and a good night great,” said Tides starter Pat Strange (1-0), who went five innings before giving way to former University of Toledo standout Jeremy Griffiths.
Griffiths, a third-round pick by the New York Mets in 1999, pitched two perfect innings for his first save of the season.
In the nightcap, the Tides scored six runs in the first inning and Toledo (3-4) never recovered.
“Andy's pitching up in the zone like he's a power pitcher and he's not,” Parrish said. “Then Chris Mears was all over the place in the bullpen while warming up for the second game and he stayed that way when he got on the mound.”