They left nine runners on base - including three in the second inning with nobody out - but there would be no, `Here we go again,' for the Mud Hens last night at Fifth Third Field.
Nate Robertson and Andres Torres made sure of that in helping their Toledo teammates to a 4-1 victory over the Charlotte Knights, a win that keeps the Hens within 51/2 games of Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in the International League's wild-card playoff race.
On an evening that could and should have been a blowout for the home team, Robertson pitched eight innings of five-hit ball and Torres launched a mammoth, two-run home run in the fifth as the Hens - the IL's worst-hitting club - snapped a four-game losing streak.
At first, there was some question whether the skid would be stopped. Not only did Toledo fail to send a runner across the plate in the second after loading the bases with nobody out, but it failed to even get the ball out of the infield.
First, Brant Ust popped out to first. Then, Omar Infante hit a soft liner to first.
Yohanny Valera ended the threat by striking out swinging.
“That's been our Achilles heel this season,” Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “Not getting them out there, but getting them in. Bases loaded and nobody out and we couldn't score. I thought, `Oh, gosh.'”
By the fifth, Parrish was thinking better thoughts.
After Infante walked, Torres ripped a fastball from losing pitcher Mike Porzio over the top of the scoreboard in left field, a shot that landed on Monroe Street.
“That's the longest home run of my career,” said Torres, who now has two for the Hens this season. “I tried to look for something down the middle and they got it there.”
Robertson took it from there, mowing down the Knights while improving his record to 9-7.
Mixing a fastball with a change-up and slider, the 25-year-old lefty got 16 ground-ball outs. He also struck out five without permitting a walk.
“It's funny, you'd think I'd be more of a ground-ball pitcher, but I haven't been that this year,” Robertson said. “That just says I'm keeping the ball down, throwing strikes and changing speeds.”
Helping change what could have been another, `Here we go again,' outing for the Hens.
“We have scrapped all year long,” Robertson said. “I know that the effort is there. I've been in that situation enough previously to be able to go out there and give the team a chance.
“Give them a chance - they went out and scored four runs and we won the ballgame.”
SLEETH IN TOLEDO: Kyle Sleeth, Detroit's No. 1 pick (third overall) in the 2003 draft, worked out before the game for Tigers' brass.
“He'll be here for about a week,” said Dave Dombrowski, Detroit's president, CEO and general manager. “Then he'll go back with the big-league club for about a week and we'll see from there.”
Sleeth, an all-American out of Wake Forest University, is on a conditioning program and will not pitch in a Hens' game.