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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2004

Hens pitchers make early lead hold up

The Mud Hens game with Buffalo at Fifth Third Field last night took a while to get started, moved slowly, and even stopped at one point.

But Toledo broke out of the gate quickly, thanks to a three-run homer by Andy Barkett in the first inning. And starter John Ennis combined with four relievers to make that early lead stand up for a 5-3 victory.

The start of the game was delayed exactly one hour by rain, which began falling roughly five minutes before the scheduled starting time. Barkett said he didn t have as big a problem with that delay as he did with the 17-minute stoppage of play in the middle of the sixth inning caused by a power outage in the light tower in the left-field corner.

“Luckily they told us early enough [they were going to delay the start] that we weren t out there getting warm and then having to come back in,” Barkett said. “I think the delay that messed us up more was the light delay - you re in the flow of the game and suddenly it stops. That messes you up.”

Joe Vitiello's bloop eluded Buffalo's Brandon Phillips (on ground), Eric Crozier (jumping) and Grady Sizemore. Joe Vitiello's bloop eluded Buffalo's Brandon Phillips (on ground), Eric Crozier (jumping) and Grady Sizemore.
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Marcus Thames singled Morris to second, and one out later Barkett drilled a Kenny Rayborn fastball to straight-away center. The ball landed high on the batter s eye more than 400 feet away for a three-run homer.

“He left a fastball up and I hit it on the good part of the bat,” Barkett said. “I think the stars and the moon and everything were lined up, and it went over the wall.”

Hens manager Larry Parrish said those three early runs were good therapy for Toledo, which had been shut out the day before.

“That was a big blow tonight,” Parrish said. “He nailed that [pitch], and that took the monkey off our back right away.”

It also gave Ennis a nice cushion with which to pitch. In the second he allowed back-to-back singles, but then got Brandon Phillips to hit the ball right back to him.

In his last start Ennis had botched a throw on a potential double play, opening the door for three unearned runs in a loss to Norfolk. This time he made the play - it wasn t a good throw, but it got the job done - and escaped further trouble.

“I ve never had error problems in my career, but I think I ve thrown two or three balls away this year,” Ennis said. “It was nice to get two outs, more than it was nice to make the play.”

The right-hander allowed two runs in the third but gave up just four hits in six innings, striking out six.

“He gave us six strong innings,” Parrish said of Ennis (3-4). “He did a good job against a club that has been swinging the bat well. Any time you get six innings and give up just two runs, we ll take that every time.”

In the second the Hens used their speed to score a run. Jason Smith singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Brant Ust s single. Toledo s speed created another run in the seventh when Logan singled, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Vitiello.

Buffalo made things interesting with a run in the eighth, but Eric Eckenstahler wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam by coaxing Chris Clapinski to ground into a fielder s choice.

The teams will close their four-game set at 6:30 tonight, with the Hens Shane Loux (2-4) facing Jeriome Robertson (0-0).



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