JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
Everything you need to know about the Mud Hens' current winning streak was put on display in the fifth inning of their 5-2 win over Ottawa at Fifth Third Field yesterday.
In the top of the fifth the pitching and defense combined to defuse a potential game-breaking rally by the Lynx. Then in the bottom of the inning the Hens scored the go-ahead runs that helped them claim their sixth straight win.
Toledo has won nine of its last 10 games and is on a 31-10 run started by sweeping a twin bill from Louisville May 17, giving them the best record in Triple-A baseball.
"The way we're playing, the way we're carrying ourselves on the field, and the way we're going about our business has made us a competitive ball club," Mud Hens interim manager Mike Rojas said. "We're not going to win every game, but we're going to match the club in the other dugout.
"It's about attitude, the way guys who have been here the last two years have played. And it's fun to watch."
Yesterday's game was tied 2-2 entering the fifth when Ottawa's Jim Rushford and Carlos Leon hit back-to-back singles that put runners on first and third with none out.
But Leon was caught trying to steal second and, with the infield pulled in, Toledo starter Ron Chiavacci coaxed Chris Roberson to hit a groundout that held Rushford at third. Chiavacci then got Joe Thurston to fly out to end the threat.
"When I got the sign from [catcher] Dane [Sardinha] for the third-to-first move [to pick off Leon], I really wanted to sell it," Chiavacci said. "I did that, and it ended up working out. That's how things are going for us - everything is working.
"I knew we were going to score more runs, so at least in the back of my mind I said, 'Let's try to get out of the inning without giving up any runs, but let's at least try to limit it to one run.' We made some good plays and good pitches, and we got out of it."
Then the Mud Hens quickly took advantage by scoring twice in the bottom of the inning. Kevin Hooper and Timo Perez got the rally started with back-to-back singles that put runners on first and third, and Mike Hessman lined a single to left that scored Hooper.
Perez took third on a flyout by Chris Shelton, then scampered home on a groundout by Jack Hannahan.
"Chiavacci kept his composure and did a great job of getting out of that," Hooper said. "Then we came right back and scored, and that's what winning clubs do.
"I can't even describe the value of it. But it's a big part of what has helped us win."
What made the game-winning rally more impressive is that the Hens, who often rely on power to score runs, mounted the two-run rally with singles and a hit-and-run on Hannahan's groundout.
"That's the good thing about this team - we can do both [long ball and small ball]," said Hooper, who had two hits and scored three runs. "Throughout the lineup we can get guys on base and we can get them in."
The Mud Hens' other runs came in the third, when they scored twice on RBI singles by Hooper and Hannahan, and in the eighth on a run-scoring hit by Shelton.
That was more than enough offense for Chiavacci and the Toledo bullpen. Chiavacci threw seven innings in the 91-degree weather, allowing seven hits but only two runs to improve his record to 7-4. Zach Miner and Aquilino Lopez each threw a scoreless inning, with Lopez claiming his 12th save.
While Chiavacci wasn't as sharp as in his previous start, when he held the Lynx to just one run until the eighth in Ottawa June 21, he pitched well enough to claim his sixth win in seven appearances.
"You have to have a different plan [when you face a team in back-to-back starts], but the key is that you've got to execute," Chiavacci said. "I tried to pitch guys a little differently, even though I had good success against them. But they're tough. You still have to go after them and mix it up because they can put the bat on the ball."
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