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Published: Sunday, 6/17/2007

'Special' sixth inning propels Hens to win

BY DAN HICKLING
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - As they've displayed so forcefully during their current torrid streak, the Mud Hens are capable of erupting at any time.

Last night, that time came in the top of the sixth inning, when they scored eight times on their way to a 12-3 dismantling of the Syracuse Chiefs before 8,022 stunned partisans at Alliance Bank Stadium.

"For us," said second baseman Henry Mateo (3-for-5, RBI), "every inning is fun, and every inning is work. But that inning was special because we could do whatever we wanted to do."

Toledo, which has now won eight of its last 11 starts, remains two games behind Indianapolis (5-1 winner over Durham) in its chase for the West Division lead.

Trailing 3-2 entering the sixth, Toledo sent 12 men to the plate and enjoyed its most prolific inning of the season, one in which they were both lucky and good, as well as all shades in between.

"This game's hard enough as it is," said designated hitter Jack Hannahan (3-for-4, 2 RBIs). "So when a team gives you extra outs in an inning, you've got to make them pay for that. That's what we didn't do early in the season, and now we're taking advantage."

Timo Perez started it all with a leadoff double off Syracuse starter John Thomson, who proceeded to walk the bases loaded and uncork a wild pitch that scored Perez from third with the tying run.

Thomson gave way to reliever Jim Crowell, who was just as feckless in his two-thirds of an inning.

Crowell walked the first Hen he faced, Hannahan, on four pitches, to force in Ryan Raburn with the go-ahead tally that made it 4-3.

He gave up three of Toledo's five hits in that inning, including Ramon Santiago's two-run single.

The capper came when Raburn lofted a lazy fly that right fielder Michael Vento lost in the lights, allowing it to fall for a two-run triple, making it 10-3.

The beneficiary of all those runs was Hens starter Ron Chiavacci, who struggled early, but settled down to improve his record to 6-4.

Chiavacci gave up four straight singles to lead off the bottom of the first, the last of which was Kevin Barker's two-run shot into the left field gap.

But he worked his way out of further trouble by striking out three Chiefs, including Michael Vento and John Schneider, to end the inning.

"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Chiavacci said. "I felt like I threw the ball well. I knew giving up two runs and getting out of it was nothing. I said to myself, 'Let's keep it right here.' I knew we were going to score runs."

The Hens got one run back, next inning, when Chris Shelton slugged an opposite field homer, his fifth, to right.

Syracuse improved its lead to 3-1 with a run in the third, before the Hens got a fourth-inning, two-out double from Hessman followed Hannahan's RBI single to pull back to within a run.

By that time, Chiavacci was in control, and helped out by a pair of outfield assists, he faced just one Chief over the minimum from the third inning on.



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