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Published: Thursday, 8/23/2007

Hens in position for third IL West title

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mike Hessman is welcomed in the dugout after hitting his 30th home run this season. He leads the IL in RBIs with 95. Mike Hessman is welcomed in the dugout after hitting his 30th home run this season. He leads the IL in RBIs with 95.
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With last night's victory the Mud Hens have paved the road for a third consecutive berth in the International League playoffs.

Toledo's win gives them a comfortable nine-game lead over second-place Indianapolis in the IL's West Division.

With tonight's game against the Indians here in Toledo, and games the following three nights in Indianapolis, the Hens could clinch the division before the series ends. But with a magic number of five the Mud Hens would need to win three of those remaining four games to earn the playoff berth.

Toledo sits in a good position regardless. Even if the Indians wins all of their remaining 13 games the Hens need to win just five times to make the playoffs.

If the Mud Hens win the West Division for the third straight season they will open the playoffs on the road against the South Division champs. But their opponent remains a mystery, since Durham and Richmond are staging a battle for the top spot.

Durham leads the R-Braves by a game and a half after an 8-2 home win last night. The two teams still have four head-to-head meetings left this season, including a pair in Durham the next two nights.

The consolation prize for Richmond is that it remains the leader in the wild card race. The R-Braves hold a narrow two-game lead over Rochester with Buffalo, Indianapolis and Louisville all within hailing distance of that playoff berth.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is in command of the IL's North Division, holding a 5 1/2-game advantage over second-place Rochester. The Yankees' magic number to claim the North Division for the second straight season stands at seven.

If the Mud Hens win the West their first-round series begins on the road Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 5-6. Game three of that best-of-five series would be held at Fifth Third Field Friday, Sept. 7, with the rest of the series set for Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 8-9, if necessary.

Should the Hens reach the Governors' Cup championships for the third straight year, that series would begin in Toledo with games at Fifth Third Field Tuesday-Wednesday, Sept. 11-12.

RECORDS WATCH: Not only does Mike Hessman rank among the Mud Hens' single-season leaders in home runs, but this year he has posted one of the best RBI seasons in team history too.

Hessman's 30 home runs, a career high, make him just the fourth Toledo player to surpass 30 in the team's modern era and the first since Dave McCarty in 1999.

His two RBIs last night give him a league-leading 95 this season, a total that ranks fifth-best on the modern-day Mud Hens list. The four hitters in front of him all have 100 RBIs or more.

The team record-holder in both categories is another third baseman, Phil Hiatt, who had 42 homers and 119 RBIs in his MVP season of 1996.

Meanwhile, Timo Perez has broken the post-1965 Toledo record for doubles in a season with his league-leading 39. The previous high of 38 was set by Torey Lovullo in 1990.

INJURY REPORT: Home-plate umpire Dusty Dellinger was forced to leave the game when a foul ball off the bat of Perez struck him in the throat just under his mask in the sixth. First-base ump Rob Healy called balls and strikes after that.



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