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Published: Friday, 6/1/2007

May merry month as red-hot Mud Hens top Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

BY DAN HICKLING
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

MOOSIC, Pa. - The Mud Hens wound up a very productive month of May, last night, by taking away a nervy 8-6 win over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, before 7,089 at PNC Field.

The Hens, who went 12-3 over the last two weeks on their way to a fine 18-12 May mark, continued to pound away at opposition pitching, having now scored five runs or better in 10 of their last 11 games.

"As a team, we're swinging the bats pretty well," said right fielder David Espinosa, who led the way with a 2-for-5, 3 RBI effort. "I know they (the Yankees) are pretty happy that we're leaving."

The Hens blasted their way to a 7-2 fourth inning lead, using homers by Ryan Raburn (his10th), Mike Hessman (league leading 15th), and Espinosa (No. 3), all of them off Scranton starter Chase Wright (3-2), to do it.

Raburn's came in the top of the first, staking Toledo starter Dennis Tankersley to a 2-0 lead.

Scranton replied with two runs in the bottom of that inning, but in the third, Toledo regained the lead, when Hessman slammed a towering two-run shot to left field.

It was Hessman's 67th round-tripper as a Mud Hen tying a 107 year-old Toledo franchise record first set by Erve Beck, who played from 1896-1900.

"Everybody's starting to contribute," said Hens interim manager Mike Rojas. "When somebody doesn't get the job done, somebody (else) will. We have the experience to do that."

Espinosa added a long three-run clout in the fourth, giving the Hens what seemed to be a cushy, five-run advantage.

"I wasn't really trying to hit a home run," said Espinosa. "I was just trying to put it in play, and I hit it out of the park."

But Tankersley (5-3) struggled throughout his 5 1/3 inning stint, and by the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees had closed to within a run, 7-6.

But the Hens bullpen took it from there.

Four Toledo relievers held the Yankees scoreless over the last 3 2/3 innings allowing just four base runners in that span.

Aquilino Lopez closed out the ninth to earn his eighth save.

NOTES: The signs were doubly good for Hens RHP Jordan Tata, who is trying to work his way back into game-shape after suffering a strained right shoulder just before the start of the season. First of all, Tata threw scoreless innings against Scranton on Wednesday, allowing just one walk, in his first action against live batters. The second came yesterday morning, when he woke up with minimal pain in his afflicted joint. "Just normal soreness," said Tata. "For me, the question now is how I'm going to bounce back for my next start (slated for Monday). I think the strengthening program that (team trainer) Matt Rankin has me on seems to be working. So I'll stick with it." The Hens moved on to Buffalo, where tonight (7:05 p.m.) they'll begin a four-game set with the North Division leading Bisons. RHP Yorman Bazardo (3-3, 3.91) will get the start for Toledo, while RHP Jake Westbrook (NR) will come down from Cleveland to make a rehab start for Buffalo.



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