AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge
The Mud Hens' 6-2 victory over Louisville at Fifth Third Field last night was the perfect tonic for what has ailed the Hens in recent days.
Toledo's recent offensive woes? All but wiped away by a 10-hit attack that also took advantage of four walks and a pair of hit batsmen.
The Hens' recent spate of narrow losses that turned into a three-game losing streak? That's not a problem when the pitching staff holds the opposition to single runs in the second and ninth on only six hits.
"You don't want to go into the playoffs stumbling," said David Espinosa, who had a pair of hits and three RBIs. "The game goes on momentum. If you have good things rolling, good things seem to happen.
"I'd like to win every game the rest of the year. We haven't been getting blown out or playing bad baseball, but it was nice to win."
The pitching was keyed by starter Matt O'Brien, who was called up from Single-A West Michigan to make his first start at this level.
"I just wanted to go out, pitch my game, and not be nervous," O'Brien said. "I just stuck to my guns. I worked the fastball in and out, changed speeds, and threw strikes. That's what you've got to do at any level."
And it worked last night as O'Brien allowed just three hits and a walk in six solid innings.
"His poise was tremendous," Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said of O'Brien. "He hit his spots and did a great job. I'm very happy for him. My hat's off to everyone who has worked with him, because nothing fazed him."
The Bats' lone run off O'Brien came in the second. Jay Bruce singled with one out, then moved to third on a double into the right-field corner by Mark Bellhorn.
The Hens played the infield back, and Jeff Bannon's groundout to shortstop scored Bruce.
Toledo tied the game with a two-out rally in the third off Bats starter Richie Gardner. Andres Torres got the rally started when he was hit by a pitch, and he took second when Henry Mateo beat out an infield grounder.
Torres then came home on a soft single to center by Omar Infante.
The Mud Hens took the lead for good with an unearned run in the sixth. Infante singled, then took second on a groundout by Chris Shelton. With Brent Clevlen at the plate, Gardner threw a ball in the dirt and Infante wandered too far off second. But Ryan Jorgensen's throw to second was wild, allowing Infante to reach third.
He came home on a sacrifice fly by Clevlen.
Toledo got an insurance run in the seventh when Espinosa opened with a home run to right, his fifth homer of the season.
The Hens then broke the game open with three runs in the eighth.
A pair of walks put two runners on with one out for Mike Hessman, who singled in a run in his final at-bat with the Mud Hens this season. Hessman finished his MVP season with 101 RBIs, the fourth-highest total in Hens history.
Espinosa followed with a two-run double in the left-center gap.
"Hit-and-run, bunt 'em over, and get big hits like we did tonight," Rojas said.
"We need [Espinosa] to get started, and he had a big night. We need Clevlen and Shelton to get rolling, and they both had good at-bats.
"We'll build from there."
The Bats scored a run in the ninth when Bruce slammed his 11th home run of the season off Jose Capellan.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.