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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Mud Hens one-up Syracuse and then some for win

BY DAN HICKLING
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The Mud Hens displayed a new take on an old Irving Berlin standard in last night's 5-2 triumph over the Syracuse Chiefs.

The one that goes, "anything you can do, I can do better."

As in anytime Syracuse scored, the Hens scored more.

Twice the Chiefs chipped out runs against Toledo starter Jordan Tata, and each time the Hens replied with two of their own.

It served to produce Toledo's seventh win in its last 10 starts, and brought the Hens to within two games of West Division leader Indianapolis.

"When you're winning," said Hens right fielder David Espinosa (4-for-5, 2 RBIs), "everything falls into place. That's as simple as you can put it. We're playing well as a team, and we have a good feeling that we're going to win."

Thus when Syracuse took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, the Hens mounted a quick reply in the top of the third to take a 2-1 advantage off Chiefs starter Ty Taubenheim (3-5).

Andrew Graham, who had reached on a fielder's choice, took third on Ramon Santiago's double, then sprinted home when Espinosa grounded out to second.

Later, Santiago came in on a ground-rule double by Timo Perez to put the Hens ahead.

Syracuse knotted the score at 2 in the sixth, when Chad Mottola walked and was later singled in by Mike Vento.

Tata, who is working his way back from early season shoulder miseries, faced one more batter, Roberts, who walked, before giving way to reliever Preston Larrison (2-1), who hurled 21/3 scoreless innings.

"It's a process getting back up into the 90-pitch range," said Tata, whose velocity was consistently in the 88-92 mph range. "I think I did get a little fatigued. But it has felt good. I haven't had any problems."

Toledo answered the Chiefs again, regaining the lead with a pair of runs in the seventh.

The first of those was Jack Hannahan's double followed by a single from Chris Maples which made it 3-2.

Espinosa then laid down a plucky two-out bunt that brought Maples from third in with the second tally.

"I've always wanted to do that," said Espinosa, who was bunting on his own. "He threw me a strike and I put it in a good spot."

Said interim Hens manager Mike Rojas, "If it hadn't worked, I'd have chewed him out."

Ryan Raburn added some insurance with a leadoff homer in the eighth, his 15th. Aquilino Lopez pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 10th save.

NOTES: There were no outward signs of termite infestation at Alliance Bank Stadium, but the game did feature four instances of shattered bats, two per side. "Must be some dry wood," joked Rojas. The Hens continue their stay in the Salt City at 7:05 tonight, when RHP Ron Chiavacci (5-4, 3.45) is slated to go up against Chiefs RHP John Thomson (2-3, 3.67).



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