It's one of the oldest axioms in baseball: Don't walk the leadoff batter.
One need look no further than Charlotte relief pitcher Matt Ginter at Fifth Third Field last night to understand why.
Ginter entered a 3-3 contest in the eighth inning and proceeded to walk Mud Hens left fielder Ernie Young on four straight pitches.
After Danny Klassen executed a perfect sacrifice bunt that sent Young to second, Hiram Bocachica doubled in what would be the winning run in a 4-3 Toledo victory over the Knights.
“That's the old kiss of death,” a smiling Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said of the walk. “They gave us a chance to get a guy in scoring position.”
Parrish wasn't the only one happy about the circumstances which led to the outcome, a decision which allows the Hens to remain 51/2 games behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League's wild-card playoff race.
“In that situation, I'm looking to hit the ball in the gap,” Young said. “But he fell behind in the count, 1-0. The next pitch was off the plate and that made my zone a little smaller. I was looking for a pitch to hit and he wasn't close to the plate. Everything fell into place that inning.”
Bocachica's perfectly placed two-bagger down the third-base line against Ginter capped off Toledo's two-game sweep of the Knights.
“I got the feeling he was going to jam me inside,” Bocachica said. “He did. He threw me a fastball inside and I was able to react.”
Hens catcher Yohanny Valera reacted well all night, finishing 3-for-3, including a two-run double in the second which gave Toledo a 3-1 edge.
Charlotte tied it with a pair of sixth-inning solo homers off starter Seth Greisinger, the latter coming off the bat of ex-Toledo backstop Mike Rivera.
Greisinger left the game at the end of the inning and Steve Avery (1-2) came on to throw two innings of one-hit ball to pick up the victory.
“He matches up pretty good with this club,” Parrish said. “They hit the high fastballs pretty good. If you can sink it away from them, you can get a lot of ground balls.”
Five of Avery's six outs came in that manner.
The only one that didn't was a strikeout of power-hitter Joe Borchard, a strong outside hitter that Avery fanned with inside stuff.
“I didn't feel all that great, but I had pretty good control and spotted,” Avery said. “I didn't have a lot on the ball, but used a lot of off-speed [pitches] tonight.”
Most importantly, unlike Ginter, he didn't walk anyone.
“It always gets you,” Bocachica said of the free pass that turned the tide. “Always.”
Added Young, with a shrug: “Hey, that's just good baseball.”
GRIFFITHS RETURNS: Toledo is idle today, then begins a two-game home set with Norfolk tomorrow night. Former University of Toledo standout Jeremy Griffiths, who picked up his first major league win Aug. 3 for the New York Mets, is scheduled to start for the Tides against Gary Knotts (4-2, 4.08).
“I was hoping he's still in the big leagues,” Parrish said with a grin.