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Leon Bull Durham turned 50 yesterday, and the Mud Hens hitting coach got the perfect birthday present from his team.
Toledo used another big first inning then cruised to an 8-4 victory over Richmond at Fifth Third Field. The win gave the Hens a sweep of the four games with the Braves, who had won six in a row heading into this series.
And while all that might not have been as tasty as the large sheet cake that was waiting for Durham in the clubhouse, it certainly still was sweet.
Oh, man, that s the icing on the cake, Durham said of Toledo s fourth win in a row and sixth in their last seven games.
The Mud Hens sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning for the second straight day, using three hits and four walks to produce five runs.
Henry Mateo got the inning started by drawing a walk from Richmond s Dan Smith, moved to second on a sacrifice by Andres Torres and stole third while Timo Perez was drawing a walk. Perez stole second with Jack Hannahan at the plate, and then the fireworks began.
Hannahan hammered a 3-2 pitch well over the fence in right-center for a three-run homer, his 13th long ball of the season. I had guys on base with one out, so all I was trying to do was hit the ball into the outfield and get the run in, said Hannahan, who had just one hit in his previous 18 at-bats. On 3-2 he threw a change-up that he left up in the zone, and I was fortunate to get the barrel on it.
But the Hens weren t done. Chris Shelton worked Smith for a 10-pitch walk, and Brent Clevlen singled Shelton to second. David Espinosa claimed Smith s fourth walk of the inning to load the bases, and Erick Almonte capped the rally by doubling home two more runs.
We ve scored a lot of runs early in the last two games, and that has put pressure on the other team, Almonte said. Our pitching staff has been great, so our keys have been getting good pitching, playing good defense and getting hits at big times.
That was enough of a cushion for Mud Hens starter Dennis Tankersley, who found himself in several tough spots in the early innings. But the only time the Braves scored off Tankersley was in the second, when Doug Clark doubled and Wes Timmons drilled his third home run of the season off the base of the scoreboard in left.
I knew that if I attacked guys and gave up a solo home run, it was still 5-1, Tankersley said. Shut-down innings are big, and when you get five runs you can still give up one or two and it s a shut-down inning.
Plus, confidence-wise [a lead] is invaluable.
In the third Richmond mounted another threat as Brayan Pena doubled with two outs and Clark walked. That brought the tying run to the plate in Brent Lillibridge, who came into yesterday s contest with a .424 batting average against the Hens.
Tankersley got out of the jam by coaxing Lillibridge to hit a popup in the infield.
I told somebody in the dugout that I either made a just bad enough pitch that they popped it out, or I made one quality pitch that they put in play for an out, Tankersley said. I would rather go just five innings and give up just a run or two than go seven innings and give up six runs.
The Mud Hens added a run in the fourth, when Mateo drew a one-out walk and Torres lined a run-scoring triple into the right-center gap. Almonte hit another two-run double in the fifth, but the Braves got those runs back in the sixth.
Reliever Eulogio De La Cruz walked Clark, gave up a single to Lillibridge and hit Timmons with a pitch to load the bases with none out. Clark scored when Iker Franco hit into a double play, and Jonathan Schuerholz doubled off the wall in left to drive in Lillibridge.
Fernando Rodney and Jeremy Johnson finished off the game for the Hens, with Johnson claiming his second save.
[Tankersley] labored a little bit, but he got through five, Rojas said. We had a fresh bullpen, so we pulled him out to save some bullets.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.