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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Mud Hens' bats go boom

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mud Hens outfielder Marcus Thames scores the go-ahead run against Indianapolis on a sixth-inning single by Carlos Pena. Mud Hens outfielder Marcus Thames scores the go-ahead run against Indianapolis on a sixth-inning single by Carlos Pena.
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It took a while for the Mud Hens' offense to get started last night.

But once they got rolling, the Hens buried Indianapolis in a six-hit, sixth-inning avalanche that produced five runs in a 7-3 victory.

"Momentum really takes over, and it's unreal and really hard to explain," said Carlos Pena of Toledo's sixth-inning eruption. "But when you get it going, everything starts to flow. And that [inning] pretty much won it for us."

The Hens' fifth straight victory, coupled with the Indians' third straight loss, gave Toledo a 1 1/2-game cushion over the Tribe for first place in the International League's West Division.

The Mud Hens were trailing 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth when Tribe starter Cory Stewart, who had given up just three hits in the first five innings, allowed a one-out single to right by Curtis Granderson.

"Sometimes it just takes one good at-bat," said Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish. "Suddenly there's a runner on base and the pitcher is conscious of the runner. Before you know it, you've got action."

Marcus Thames then worked Stewart to a 3-2 count and, with Granderson running on the pitch, lined a double into the left-field corner that allowed Granderson to score from first.

"Marcus was swinging the bat well the whole game," Pena said. "First at-bat, he hits a double. Second at-bat, he hits a missile to center. When he hit that double down the line, I think it took a little bit out of them."

Pena followed with an opposite-field single that scored Thames and gave Toledo the lead for good.

But the inning was far from over: Ryan Raburn doubled down the left-field line to plate Pena, and Raburn came home on Dewayne Wise's double off the wall in right-center.

Reliever Hansel Izquierdo came on for the Indians to get the second out of the inning, but Gookie Dawkins then lined a run-scoring double to left, the Hens' fourth RBI double of the inning.

"We hit like we were capable of," Parrish said. "We put on some good at-bats there. We hadn't hit that guy very much this year, so it was big to put a five-spot up on that guy."

Stewart had allowed just eight hits and three earned runs in 111/3 innings against Toledo before yesterday's game.

Toledo starter Matt Ginter had kept his team in the contest in his first start for the Mud Hens since being sent to Toledo by the parent Tigers June 22. He fell one pitch shy of his mandated 60-pitch limit in throwing five shutout innings, giving up just two hits and retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.

But lefty Rob Henkel wasn't as successful, giving up sixth-inning hits to the first three Indianapolis batters he faced to allow the game's first run.

The Hens trumped that run with their sixth-inning outburst, but Indianapolis threatened to tighten up the contest in the seventh.

Nate McLouth homered to lead off the frame, and Jose Leon doubled to drive Henkel out of the game. Matt Roney came on to get a strikeout but gave up a single that brought the tying run to the plate. Roney blunted the rally by getting Cesar Crespo to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

"To me, that was the biggest pitch of the game - the double-play ball," Parrish said. "We had scored, but they came back out and had something going. But we got the double-play ball right there."

The Hens expanded the lead with a pair of two-out RBI hits in the seventh, a double by Pena and a single by Raburn.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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