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Published: Tuesday, 7/31/2007

Sardinha hits 3 home runs

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Catcher Dane Sardinha hits one of his three home runs last night, tying the record for  Fifth Third Field. Catcher Dane Sardinha hits one of his three home runs last night, tying the record for Fifth Third Field.
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It s a tradition for catchers to get a day off when a team plays a day game after a night game.

But you can bet that Mud Hens catcher Dane Sardinha will be behind the plate when Toledo hosts Richmond at Fifth Third Field starting at noon today. That s because Sardinha slammed three home runs last night to help lift the Hens to a 10-3 victory over the Braves.

Sardinha s catching, Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said afterwards. No question, he s catching.

And why not? Among the highlights of Sardinha s big night at the plate were setting a Fifth Third Field record for most RBIs in a game seven and tying the record for most home runs in a game three. He also set Mud Hens season highs for home runs and RBIs in a game, falling one short of tying the team record in both categories.

I think I m swinging the bat a little better, Sardinha said modestly. My timing is a little better right now, and I m taking bad pitches I ve normally swung to get good counts and get fastballs to hit.

The Mud Hens used a four-run first to create some breathing room, a welcome respite after the team s recent spate of close games. The big rally featured a two-run homer by Erick Almonte, his first with the Mud Hens, a hit batsman and a pair of walks that helped bring two more runs home.

When you get a lead in the first inning it allows the pitcher to settle in a little bit, Rojas said. It also allows your hitters to relax, and we got some quality at-bats all the way through the game.

Richmond scored a run in the second on a home run by Brent Lillibridge, his sixth this season and third in nine games against Toledo, but the Hens got the run back when Sardinha pounded a home run off the left-field scoreboard with two outs in the third.

The R-Braves added a run in the fifth when Pete Orr scored on a fielder s choice groundout, but Sardinha got that run back with interest in the sixth.

Chris Maples led off the inning by drawing a walk from Richmond reliever Ryan Basner, and Sardinha drilled a 2-0 pitch well over the fence for his second homer of the night and third in two days.

Sardinha capped the Toledo scoring in the seventh when he slammed a 1-2 pitch by Buddy Hernandez off the base of the left-field scoreboard for his seventh home run of the season.

The first one I kind of knew I had because I thought I had the height and the distance, Sardinha said. The second was a line drive, so I wasn t sure if it was going to get over.

The last one was a change-up that I kind of got ahead of. If you get a little backspin, you can get it out of here to left, and that s what happened.

Toledo starter Ron Chiavacci was the beneficiary of Sardinha s outburst. He limited Richmond to six hits and a pair of runs in six innings and struck out eight to improve to 9-5.

Our starters have done a great job all season, Rojas said. He s among the top 10 pitchers in the league [in ERA] for a reason, and he showed those reasons.

The Mud Hens have won three in a row against the R-Braves, who came to town riding a six-game winning streak.

Toledo s fifth win in the last six games extended its lead over Indianapolis in the International League s West Division to eight games after the Indians lost to Durham.

We ve lost some of our key hitters, but we ve got other guys stepping up and hitting the ball well, Sardinha said. And our pitchers have done an excellent job.

With some of the guys gone, our pitchers have been battling and putting up some pretty good numbers.

And Sardinha be catching those pitchers in today s game.

I m not looking for a day off, Sardinha said. When you re swing is feeling good, you want to be in there hitting.

Contact John Wagner at:jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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