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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 6/27/2007

'D' the key in Mud Hens' 5th victory in row

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Hens' Ryan Raburn dives to snag Chris Roberson's liner on opening play of the game. The Hens' Ryan Raburn dives to snag Chris Roberson's liner on opening play of the game.
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The box score for the Mud Hens' 8-5 victory over Ottawa will explain many of the reasons Toledo won for the fifth straight night and for the eighth time in the last nine games.

But a look beyond the box score will better explain the Hens' victory last night, not to mention make clearer why the team is 30-10 since May 17.

Several big defensive plays helped limit the runs the Lynx scored last night, and a pair of double plays shut down potential rallies.

"If I'm a pitcher, it's very enjoyable to see that kind of defense being played behind me," Hens interim manager Mike Rojas said. "We're way ahead in getting double plays, and that's huge for the pitching staff too."

Ottawa jumped in front when Brennan King launched a long home run to center, but that counted for only one run because Ryan Raburn opened the game with a fine diving catch of Chris Roberson's line drive.

"Raburn said he was a little mad that he had to dive [to make a catch] on the first very play of the game," Hens starter Jordan Tata said. "I told him, 'Hey, it's time to punch in and go to work.'

"I think we're first in the league in defense, and it's been outstanding all year. Every time the ball's in play, we have a chance to make an out."

Toledo tied the game in the second on a sacrifice fly by Chris Maples. The Lynx reclaimed the lead on King's RBI single in the third, but Toledo took the lead for good with a three-run third.

Walks played a key role in that rally as Ottawa starter Eude Brito walked both Chris Shelton and Jack Hannahan with two outs. David Espinosa lined a two-run double, then came home on a double by Maples.

"Talk about night and day from early in the season," said Hannahan, who walked four times and also singled to score three times. "Back then we weren't getting the two-out hit, we weren't getting the runs in.

"Now we have turned the corner. It doesn't seem to matter who's up or how many outs there are."

Ottawa cut the lead to 4-3 with a run in the fifth, but the Mud Hen defense blunted what could have been a bigger rally. With one out Pedro Swann doubled, then moved to third when Roberson beat out a bunt single.

Tata made a diving catch of a bunt by Joe Thurston, but King lined a single to center that scored Swann and sent Roberson to third. Gary Burnham then lined a hard grounder to first that Shelton dived for and slowed, but Hannahan ran over from second, picked up the ball and threw to Shelton for the out.

"The ball was hit to my left, so I broke over to it," Hannahan explained. "Shelton laid out and it hit his glove. I knew [Burnham] didn't run very well, so I knew we might have a shot.

"I grabbed it, threw it and hoped for the best."

Tata called Hannahan's hustling play the key to the contest.

The Hens scored twice in the fifth on sacrifice flies by Maples and Ramon Santiago.

Then in the sixth Hessman followed a near-homer by Raburn by slamming his league-leading 23rd home run of the season well over the fence in left-center.

Things got a little nervous in the ninth when Corey Hamman allowed four hits that turned into two Ottawa runs, but he got Thurston to ground into a game-ending double play.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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