Should the Mud Hens win the International League's West Division, many people may look at last night's extra-inning win over Louisville as the catalyst to the title run.
Toledo bounced back with two runs in the late innings to tie the game, then got a leadoff home run by Ryan Ludwick in the 11th inning to claim a 4-3 victory over the Bats. The comeback win did more than just give the Hens their sixth victory in the last eight games. It also helped Toledo move to within two games of Indianapolis at the top of the division, and it gave the Mud Hens a game-and-a-half cushion over Louisville in third.
Ludwick won the game by crushing a 3-2 pitch from Louisville reliever Mike Burns well over the fence in left-center for his team-leading 20th home run of the season - and his second walk-off homer this year.
"I've been struggling a lot lately, and [hitting coach Leon Durham] has helped me to get me back into a positive frame of mind," Ludwick said.
"I've been swinging at a lot of bad pitches, so I just tried to get a good pitch to hit.
"I've always loved those situations because the adrenaline starts pumping. [Burns] threw the ball over the plate and I was looking fastball."
But the Hens had other heroes last night besides Ludwick. Another was the pitching staff, which held Louisville to just four hits in 11 innings. Starter Chad Durbin struck out nine in 72/3 solid innings, while Bobby Seay retired all four batters he faced and Jason Karnuth added two scoreless innings to claim his first win for Toledo this season.
"Our pitching, except for one pitch, was outstanding all night," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "Durbin made one bad pitch, and it went for a three-run homer. For the second night Seay came in and did a great job for us. And Karnuth has really pitched well lately.
"We just went out there and held them until we scored [the winning run]."
The bad pitch by Durbin came in the sixth with the Hens clinging to a 1-0 lead. Brendan Harris led off with a double, but Durbin retired the next two hitters and Harris took third on Norris Hopper's one-out groundout.
Durbin walked Ray Olmedo for his only walk of the night and, with Dewayne Wise at the plate, Olmedo began running toward second before Durbin delivered a one-strike pitch.
Durbin stepped off the rubber and threw to shortstop Kevin Hooper, who kept watching to make sure Harris didn't break for home. Hooper held onto the ball as Olmedo returned to first.
Wise promptly drilled Durbin's next pitch over the fence in right for his first home run.
"After the three-run homer, I wouldn't say anybody was down because we knew we were going to score," Toledo catcher Mike Rabelo said.
The Hens finally got to Louisville starter Mike Gosling in the seventh. Ludwick singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Rabelo's single.
Then in the eighth Toledo tied the game against the Louisville bullpen.
Dustan Mohr drew a walk from Brad Salmon, and Jack Hannahan sacrificed Mohr to second. Brian Shackelford walked Ludwick, and both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Rabelo hammered a long sacrifice fly to left.
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