There were plenty of stars in the Mud Hens' 5-0 win over Norfolk at Fifth Third Field yesterday that moved Toledo into a first-place tie with Louisville in the International League West Division.
Pitcher Seth Greisinger threw a five-hit, complete-game shutout; Kevin Witt took over the IL lead in home runs with a pair of long blasts, and left fielder Jhonny Perez threw out a runner at home for the game's final out.
So who was the star of stars? Hens manager Larry Parrish, whose team won for the sixth time in seven games, didn't want to choose.
“Well, it's hard not to pick a pitcher who threw a shutout,” he said. “But Witt hit two homers, and there were some good at-bats throughout the lineup. It was a well-played game for us today - all the way around.”
Greisinger earned his star with an impressive complete game, blanking the Tides on 107 pitches in his best effort of the season. And that's saying a lot considering Greisinger entered the game with a 2.08 ERA after allowing just 10 hits in 13 walk-free innings in his first two starts.
“My arm feels good, I'm throwing strikes and the catchers are doing a good job,” Greisinger said. “I've been locating well and keeping the ball down, and that's the main thing.”
The 27-year-old right-hander retired the first 10 batters he faced before Jorge Velandia doubled down the left-field line. But no Norfolk batter reached third until the seventh, when a hit-batsman and a walk - Greisinger's first in 19 innings - resulted in runners on second and third.
Greisinger got out of that jam with a strikeout, but in the ninth he found himself in another two-on, two-out jam. Former Hen Lyle Mouton lined a single to left, but Perez threw a strike home and Yohanny Valera tagged out Raul Gonzalez to preserve the shutout.
“It was a perfect throw,” a grateful Greisinger said. “I thought I did a pretty good job on the pitch - I got it in and a little bit up - but Mouton put a pretty good swing on it.
“When the runner was coming around, I saw the throw and it appeared to be a perfect throw. It was a close play, but Yohanny put a great tag on him and it was a great throw.”
Witt gave Greisinger the only run he would need when he opened the second inning with a line shot over the fence in right-center for his sixth home run of the season.
In the fourth Witt repeated that feat off Tides' starter Mike Bacsik, putting the ball in almost the same spot. The two home runs give him seven in 16 games, two more than Fernando Seguignol of Columbus and Pawtucket's Lou Collier.
Parrish said he was impressed with the left-handed hitting Witt's first two at-bats against Bacsik.
“[Witt] came out there today against a lefty who drops down and has a good breaking ball,” Parrish said. “The first one he hit was a pretty good pitch - a fastball in - that he cleared out pretty good.”
Witt, who has hit four home runs in as many days, said he isn't surprised by a fast start that has his batting average up to .393.
“In that first home stand I started feeling good, but it was just so cold,” he said. “I thought I was seeing the ball pretty well, it was just a matter of staying loose and finding that groove. I just want to stay aggressive.”
The Hens' other runs came on an RBI triple in the second by Cody Ross, who also doubled in the fifth and scored on Andres Torres' single, and a wild pitch in the sixth that brought home Ernie Young.
NOTES: Yesterday's Easter Day crowd of 4,798 was the ninth-smallest in Fifth Third Field history. But it was the third-largest crowd among the six IL teams that hosted games ... The Tides changed their rotation for the final two games of this series. Jason Middlebrook, whom the New York Mets sent to Norfolk on Saturday, will start today against Tyler Walker. Tomorrow, former UT star Jeremy Griffiths will oppose Andy Van Hekken ... Greisinger's walk broke a string of 15 walk-free innings for Hen pitchers. Toledo has issued just two walks in the last 28 innings.