There was a lot of bobbling going on last night at Fifth Third Field.
The Mud Hens' handed out 1,000 Cody Ross' bobblehead dolls and, ironically, it was a Louisville bobble of Ross' grounder in the third inning that opened the door to a what would be an eventual 7-3 Toledo victory over the International League West Division-leading Bats.
“It really did make a difference,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. “That was a big play for us right there. We got something going after that.”
After Yohanny Valera singled to begin the inning, Andres Torres grounded into a fielder's choice. The next batter was Omar Infante, who singled to right. That set the stage for Ross, who sent a grounder to Bats shortstop Jason Maxwell.
Moving to his right, Maxwell tried to backhand the ball, only to bobble it. Instead of a possible double-play, Maxwell could only get the force at second and Torres scored.
“It is ironic that a bobble was a factor in the game,” a smiling Ross said. “I never thought about that, but it really was big.”
It was huge, because two batters later Patrick Lennon singled to left-center, plating Infante and Ross with two more unearned runs, giving the Hens a 3-0 edge.
There were two other keys to the contest. In the fifth, Louisville loaded the bases with nobody out against Hens starter John Ennis. Reliever Corey Brittan came on and allowed only a pair of sacrifice fly balls and that, combined with catcher Valera's throw to second that squashed Mark Budzinski's attempted steal, ended a threat.
One inning later, some hard running by Brant Ust gave Toledo what would prove to be the winning run. With two outs, the third baseman doubled. Valera followed with a grounder into the hole that second baseman Andrew Beattie couldn't handle cleanly.
Ust never broke stride, beating Beattie's throw home.
“I was surprised it [Valera's grounder] didn't get through [into center field],” Ust said. “You want to put pressure on the defense; they've still got to make a perfect throw and a perfect catch. With two outs, Beattie did a good job so I just put my head down and kept going.”
While we're on the topic of heads moving, what did Ross like better last evening, the bobblehead or the bobble that got the Hens rolling?
“The bobble, definitely,” a grinning Ross said. “It sparked us. But the bobblehead is nice, I've gotta admit.”
NOTES: The victory went to Brittan, who struck out two in his two innings. ... Ennis, shipped to Toledo after being picked up on waivers from Atlanta on Wednesday by the parent Detroit Tigers, was solid. In his first IL start since June, he gave the Hens four innings, including a pair of strikeouts. ... Chris Mears got the save with three innings of one-hit ball. ... The announced paid attendance of 9,064 was the Hens' 21st sellout of the season.
- DAN SAEVIG