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The near-record crowd that welcomed the Mud Hens home from a 5-3 road trip last night saw a perfect example of just how the Hens won those road games.
Toledo got a fine starting effort from James Baldwin, terrific work from the bullpen, and just enough offense to claim a 2-0 victory over Indianapolis in front of 11,216 at Fifth Third Field.
"We had a slogan on the road that we took from the Oakland Raiders: 'Just Win, Baby,' " said Hens manager Larry Parrish.
And Toledo "just won" to maintain its 2 1/2-game lead on Columbus in the International League's West Division, as well as snap a two-game losing streak.
Of course, that's been Baldwin's forte recently. The right-hander has won his last three starts, all coming after Toledo losses.
"The guy's a competitor, and he just gets the ball and pitches," Parrish said of Baldwin. "And the defense usually is good behind him because he just gets the ball and throws it."
Baldwin dominated the Indians. He didn't allow a baserunner until he walked Matt
Erickson in the third, and Baldwin didn't allow a hit until Mark Johnson singled to lead off the sixth.
Johnson's hit started the first of two rallies Indianapolis mounted against Baldwin. Luis Figueroa sacrificed Johnson to second, but Toledo shortstop Danny Klassen caught a line drive by Erickson and doubled Johnson off second to end the threat.
In the eighth a walk and a bunt single put the first two batters on base. But Baldwin got Brandon Gemoll to ground into a double play, and following a walk he coaxed Jon Nunnally to pop out.
Baldwin finished with only three hits allowed in 71/3 innings as he improved to 4-2 with the Hens.
"All I do is make them put the ball in play and let the defense do the work," Baldwin said.
the defense did a good job, too."
John Ennis came on in the eighth with one on and one out in the eighth and retired the Indians without incident, and Franklyn German set the Tribe down in the ninth to nail down his 24th save.
Meanwhile, Nook Logan and Klassen combined to produce both Toledo runs. The Hens scratched out an unearned run in the third off Indianapolis starter Wes Obermueller when Logan's routine grounder to second went under the glove of Trent Durrington for a two-out error. Logan stole second, then took off on Klassen's single up the middle.
Indians shortstop Luis Figueroa knocked Klassen's hit down, but Logan sped for home anyway. Figueroa's throw to the plate beat Logan, but catcher Mark Johnson wasn't able to handle it and Logan scored.
"With two outs I was going all the way," said Logan, who returned to the Hens yesterday after spending a week with the parent Tigers.
Logan's speed produced an insurance run in the eighth. He bounced a triple down the first-base line into the right-field corner, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Klassen, who leaves for Toronto today to join the Canadian Olympic team.
"With the team playing well and in first place, you always want to be a part of that," he said. "I'm looking forward to coming back here [Aug. 26] and being a part of the end of the season - and the playoffs."
NOTES: Reliever Matt Anderson is not with the team. He went home while the Hens were in Buffalo to be with his wife Rebecca as she gave birth to the couple's third child. He is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow. ... The parent Tigers are close to signing Benji Gil to a contract. He was in Detroit yesterday to take a physical and, should he pass it, would join the Hens today. He is expected to replace Klassen at shortstop.
Hens big draws
Yesterday was a perfect day at Fifth Third Field - for everyone but Mud Hens assistant general manager Erik Ibsen, who was faced with a problem in his role as the team's director of ticket sales and operations.
Usually the club caps attendance at 10,300 for all home games except Opening Day. But yesterday the Hens admitted 11,216 fans into Fifth Third Field, the third-largest crowd in team history and the largest other than Opening Day.
Much of that number came from a walk-up crowd that approached a thousand fans, a total that's unusual even for Fifth Third Field on a Saturday night.
"It was a perfect situation: It was the first day of a homestand, the team returned home in first place, it was a Saturday and there was good weather," said Hens general manager Joe Napoli to explain the crowd.
As a result the Hens went past the 10,300 mark at Fifth Third Field for only the fifth time.
"Erik was caught between a rock and a hard place," Napoli said. "He had to decide: Do I turn away a thousand people, or do we sell them standing-room tickets? We've never had a situation where we have almost a thousand people show up on a Saturday night for standing-room tickets."
Last night's crowd pushes the Hens' season attendance total to 393,984 in 54 dates, a total that already is the third-highest mark in Toledo's professional baseball history.
"And we do have seats available for [today]," Napoli said with a smile.