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Published: Tuesday, 5/16/2006

Mud Hens blast Braves

BY BRUCE WELLS
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

RICHMOND, Va. - After enduring an offensive malaise for the first three games of their series at Richmond, the Toledo Mud Hens reawakened last night with Ryan Ludwick as the catalyst.

And he did it in grand fashion.

Ryan Ludwick's third inning grand slam - a towering blast into the parking lot beyond the left field wall - sparked the Toledo offense as it beat the Richmond Braves 7-2 at The Diamond.

"To be honest, we didn't expect this series to be this tough," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We thought if we played well, the worst we would do is a split. But we left some games out there. We got the hits tonight though."

Indeed.

The Mud Hens rapped out 10 hits, three of those for extra bases including Ludwick's blast.

Ludwick, a veteran of seven seasons - five of those years split between Triple-A and the Major Leagues - has been on a tear, picking up hits in 15 of his last 16 games. During that time he has gone 22-for-60 (.367), including last night when he was 2-for-5 with five RBI.

"He had the big hit tonight," said Parrish. "We've been absolutely awful with the bases loaded, so I thought ... we're in trouble now, we've got the bases loaded, and then BAM. That one was huge. He really tagged it."

The game had been scoreless until the third-inning eruption by the Mud Hens.

Back-to-back singles by Kevin Hooper and Don Kelly, followed by a walk to Ryan Rayburn, set the table for Ludwick, who swung at the first pitch he saw from Richmond's Travis Smith for a strike and took the next for a ball. One pitch later he got a hanging slider that he deposited over the left-field wall.

Those four runs would have been more than enough for Mud Hens starter Zach Miner to work with, but Toledo added another in the sixth on a Maxim St-Pierre RBI single and two more in the seventh on RBI singles by Ludwick and Josh Phelps.

Miner, meanwhile, kept the Braves scoreless through five innings before getting in trouble with one out in the sixth, surrendering a double and an RBI triple. While backing up Mud Hens third baseman Mike Hessman on the triple, Miner slipped on the wet grass and went down in a heap, holding his leg. He was able to walk off under his own power and was replaced by Chris Spurling, who gave up an RBI single - that run also charged to Miner - before settling down and pitching shutout baseball the rest of the way.

Miner has won each of his last six starts, allowing just seven earned runs over that span.

Through eight starts by Miner, Toledo has been perfect, winning every game and giving Miner more than five runs a game in offensive support.

"With him on the mound we don't have to score many," Parrish said. "I think sometimes when a guy is pitching well like that, it really loosens up the offense."

Miner was diagnosed after the game with a sprained ankle and will likely miss his next start.



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