When a baseball team is playing well, they usually aren't interested in taking a break.
So it's natural that the Mud Hens, who entered the just-completed All-Star break with the best record in the International League, might not have wanted those days off, right?
Wrong, said Hens interim manager Mike Rojas after his team beat Richmond 5-3 at Fifth Third Field last night.
"I think we needed the three days to rest our bodies, rest our arms," Rojas said. "We've been playing pretty good baseball, and hard baseball. The break came at a good time.
"Some times, when you're going as well as we were earlier, you don't want a day off. But we needed those three days off, and when we came back we didn't miss a step."
Richmond, which entered the game with the second-best record in the IL, drew first blood with a pair of second-inning runs.
Brayan Pena and Larry Bigbie led off with back-to-back doubles for one run, and one out later Doug Clark lined a single to right. When Henry Mateo bobbled the ball, Bigbie came around to score.
Brent Lillibridge beat out a bunt that moved Clark to second, but Toledo starter Virgil Vasquez escaped further damage by getting a flyout and a groundout.
After that Vasquez cruised through the R-Braves' lineup. He retired all but two of the final 17 batters he faced, giving up two harmless singles and never letting those two runners advance past first.
"I felt I wasn't paying attention to the hitters," Vasquez said about his early struggles. "Before I was thinking about what I was doing mechanically. So after [the second] I started paying attention to how they were reacting to fastballs, sliders and change-ups, and then pitching to what I saw. I started doing that and finishing my pitches."
The Mud Hens immediately got the two runs back in the bottom of the second. Chris Shelton drew a one-out walk from Richmond starter Kevin Barry, and with two outs Brent Clevlen clubbed a long home run to center.
"I love the way he's swinging the bat right now, and the confidence he has at the plate," Rojas said of Clevlen.
The Hens took the lead for good in the fourth. With one out Mike Hessman slammed his league-leading 27th home run of the season into the nets in left-center.
On the next pitch Clevlen did Hessman one better: He slammed his second home run of the night, and third of the season, over the nets above the fence in left and onto Monroe Street.
"It's like a fresh start for me," said Clevlen, who has hit three home runs in four games since returning to the team July 6. "I'm just coming out here and having fun. I've made a little change here and there in my swing and stance, and it's working for me."
Richmond cut the Mud Hens' lead to one with an eighth-inning run off reliever Vic Darensbourg, who hit one batter before giving up two bloop singles to score the run.
But the Mud Hens got that run back in the eighth thanks to two blunders by the R-Braves. With one out Perez was safe when Pena misplayed a grounder at first, and Perez moved to third on a Jack Hannahan double.
Richmond reliever Rich Scalamandre struck out Shelton but fell behind Hessman 3-0. On ball four of an intentional walk, Scalamandre threw a pitch well over the head of catcher Corky Miller, allowing Perez to score.
"I've been on the other end of that, and it's tough," Rojas said.
Aquilino Lopez closed out the victory by striking out three
R-Braves in the ninth for his 15th save of the season.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.