The Mud Hens ground out a 4-1 victory over Rochester at Fifth Third Field last night.
And "grind" is the perfect word to describe Toledo's fifth win in the last six games. The offense wasn't perfect, the pitching wasn't perfect, and the weather was far from perfect, but none of that mattered as the Hens moved to 5-2 on their homestand.
"That's the make-up of this ball club," said Chris Shelton, whose two-run double was a key blow in the win. "These guys want to play the game hard, and they play the game right for the most part. That's going to pay off for this ballclub."
Toledo starter Sean Douglass struggled with his control all night, throwing just 60 strikes among his 107 pitches. Yet he held the Red Wings to just three hits in seven innings to win his third straight start and improve to 6-1.
"I felt I struggled, especially with the fastball, all night," Douglass said. "In the first inning it actually was good, but from then on I struggled with it, especially from the wind-up.
"The pitch you have to get ahead with is the fastball, and I struggled all night with it."
And yet Rochester never got a runner to third except in the fourth, when Douglass fell behind Michael Ryan 3-0 and gave up a triple to straight-away center with one out.
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish elected to play the infield back and the strategy paid off when Garrett Jones popped out to shallow center. But Josh Rabe got ahead of Douglass 2-1 and lined an RBI double down the left-field line.
"I thought Douglass gave us a good effort on a night where we needed it, because their guy [J.D. Durbin] was throwing the ball good," Parrish said.
Durbin pitched his way into and out of trouble until the fifth, when his struggles with his control cost him the lead. With two outs, Kevin Hooper worked Durbin for a seven-pitch walk, then moved to second on a wild pitch before Durbin walked Curtis Granderson.
Shelton got ahead in the count 2-1, then smacked a grounder down the first-base line that managed to stay fair, elude Garrett Jones, then roll into the right-field corner for a two-run double.
Parrish was amazed that Shelton's hit was able to cue past Jones, who landed completely in foul territory trying to stop it.
"He hit a shank. They're no good in golf, but they're good in baseball," Parrish said.
In the eighth the Hens scratched out two insurance runs against Rochester reliever Ricky Barrett. Hooper led off by beating out a hard liner to shortstop, and Granderson fought Barrett for eight pitches before beating out a hard grounder to second that Brent Abernathy stopped, but he wasn't able to stand up and throw.
Shelton drew a four-pitch walk that loaded the bases, and after a strikeout Sandy Martinez put his bat on a tough 1-2 curve and skied a sacrifice fly to center.
"That was a good at-bat for Sandy," Parrish said. "That at-bat, and that run, was big."
Ryan Raburn followed with a single up the middle that Wings shortstop Jason Bartlett stopped from going into center. Granderson, running on the hit, beat the throw to the plate to score the Hens' final run.
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