For six innings yesterday it looked as if Toledo were going to have to struggle for a run, much less a victory.
But in their final two innings, the Mud Hens pummeled two Lynx relievers to record a 5-0 victory at Fifth Third Field.
Toledo scored twice in the seventh and three more times in the eighth to help snap a three-game losing streak in front of 6,559 fans.
That late rally made a winner of Hens starter Tyler Walker, who picked a perfect time for his best start of the season. He went seven innings and allowed just three hits to the team with the highest batting average in the International League.
“And that's what we needed tonight, because we weren't doing very much offensively,'' said Hens manager Larry Parrish. “Keeping us in the game like that gave our offense the idea that if we could score just one or two, we can win.''
Scoring even one run was an impossible task for the Hens against Ottawa starter Sean Douglass, who allowed just two hits in six walk-free innings. But the right-hander, who had won his last five starts, was pulled after 71 pitches.
“Douglass hadn't pitched in 10 days. He got hit with a line drive in his last start [against Norfolk on May 17],'' said Ottawa manager Gary Allenson. “That's why he came out after six.''
And the Hens took advantage of Douglass' replacement, Darwin Cubillan. With two outs Wendell Magee Jr. drilled a liner past B.J. Littleton in center that rolled to the wall for a triple. Then Danny Klassen, mired in a 1-for-20 slump, lifted a long fly to right that fell for a run-scoring triple.
“It has been a while,'' Klassen said of his hit. “When I got to third, Larry said, `How does it feel to run the bases again?' It felt like it has been a week since I was on, so this felt good.''
Hiram Bocachica followed Klassen's three-bagger with a walk to put runners on first and third. On the second pitch to A.J. Hinch, Bocachica broke for second, and when Lynx catcher Robert Machado threw to second Klassen came home to complete a double steal.
In the eighth the Hens broke the game open by scoring three times off Cubillan and Bill Pulsipher. With one out Cody Ross walked, and Jhonny Perez moved Ross to second with a hit-and-run single. Pulsipher came on to face Warren Morris, who whacked a 2-2 pitch past Fletcher Bates in right for a two-run triple. Morris scored when Eddy Garabito's relay throw to third ended up in the Hens' dugout.
The late rallies made a winner of Walker, who said the three losses in Charlotte, combined with the realization Ottawa had swept four home games from the Hens, put even more pressure on every pitch he threw.
“You couldn't give them an inch, because they would take all they could,'' Walker said. “Going out of the dugout after seeing Douglass put up a zero made me focus a little more, knowing that one pitch could probably lose the game for us.''
The only bumps in the road for Walker came in the fourth, when he gave up a leadoff double to Bates but retired the next three batters, and in the sixth, when two walks put another runner in scoring position. Walker got a forceout by Jose Leon and fanned Machado to escape that jam.
Fernando Rodney retired the final five hitters in the contest to earn his ninth save. He stranded a pair of baserunners in the eighth and struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth in his longest and most difficult outing of the season.
And Rodney's early entrance emphasized how important yesterday's victory was. “Bringing Rodney in in the eighth tells you how much we wanted to win,'' Parrish said.
NOTES: Two of the umpires were without their equipment for yesterday's game. As a result Justin Klemm and Trey Nelson were forced to wear Mud Hens hats and windbreakers. Klemm was supposed to call balls and strikes, but without his equipment he instead moved to first base and Bob Bainter worked behind the plate. ... The Lynx had a tough travel day getting to Toledo. After playing a home twinbill on Sunday, Ottawa's day began with a bus to Montreal that left at 3 a.m. yesterday. The team bussed to Montreal, flew from Montreal to Cincinnati, had a two-hour layover, then flew into Detroit before arriving in Toledo around 1 p.m.