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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Mud Hens sweep Knights; Toledo decks Charlotte's ace in 5-3 victory

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Colby Lewis unleashes a pitch in the first inning of the Mud Hens' victory at Fifth Third Field. Lewis battled through six innings to outduel Charlotte's Heath Phillips and get his first victory since June 4. Colby Lewis unleashes a pitch in the first inning of the Mud Hens' victory at Fifth Third Field. Lewis battled through six innings to outduel Charlotte's Heath Phillips and get his first victory since June 4.
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The Mud Hens knew they were in for a battle last night.

A day earlier, Charlotte starter Heath Phillips was named to the International League's All-Star team; he came into the game with a league-leading 10 wins, and his 1.76 ERA ranked third in the league.

Plus, he had won his last six starts.

So there were plenty of smiles in the Mud Hen clubhouse last night after Toledo beat Phillips and the Knights 5-3 at Fifth Third Field.

"Our offense put up some runs against him, battled, and probably could have had a few more runs," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "The defense wasn't too stellar on either side, but I thought it was a case of two good clubs battling."

The Hens posted 14 hits and four earned runs against Phillips, the most he had allowed this season. That was enough for Toledo to sweep its two-game series with Charlotte and claim the team's fifth win in the last six games.

The Knights broke on top with an unearned run in the first inning. With two outs, Josh Fields singled, then moved to second when Ernie Young was hit by a pitch.

Ryan Sweeney then hit a slow roller back to the mound that bounced off starting pitcher Colby Lewis' glove; Lewis retrieved the ball, then threw backhanded - and wildly - to first, allowing Fields to score.

But the Mud Hens got the run back in the bottom of the first thanks to a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Jack Hannahan. Mike Hessman followed with a single to left, but Jerry Owens' strong throw to the plate cut down David Espinosa.

"We all knew his numbers," Kevin Hooper said of Phillips. "We knew we had to focus, and we went out and battled. A guy who's 10-2 with a 1.76 [ERA] coming in is doing something right.

"When we got that run in the first, that got our confidence up a little bit."

The Knights scored again in the third when Jorge Velandia led off with a double into right-center, then moved to third on a groundout before scoring on Young's double down the third-base line.

But the Mud Hens matched that run in the bottom of the frame. Hooper hustled to his second of four hits on the day, a hot shot to first base in which he beat the pitcher to the base.

Espinosa then hit a grounder to shortstop that Velandia dropped for an error, putting runners on second and third with none out. One out later Josh Phelps lined an RBI single to left.

"It's always good when your team bounces right back [with a run] for you," Lewis said. "It gives you a little reassurance, especially if you don't have your great stuff, that they're going to battle for you."

Toledo took the lead for good with a pair of two-out runs in the fifth. Ryan Raburn walked, then came around to score on Phelps' triple to straight-away center. Hannahan followed with an RBI double in the right-center gap.

That was more than enough for Lewis, who fought through six innings to claim his first victory since June 4.

The right-hander allowed seven hits in six innings, but he also stranded eight base-runners and held the Knights to just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

"It looks as if his velocity has come back in his last couple of starts," Parrish said of Lewis. "It looks like he doesn't know how to handle it. Early in the season he was controlling the ball better; now it looks like the ball is jumping out of his hand, but it rocks back and forth."

The Knights cut Toledo's lead to a run in the seventh thanks to an RBI single by Young, but the Mud Hens got it back in the bottom of the inning. With one out Espinosa singled, and Raburn followed with a hard grounder that bounced off third base and down the left-field line; the ball then scooted past Owens, allowing Espinosa to score.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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