Jeremy Johnson was good. Clay Rapada, Preston Larrison and Blaine Neal were better.
And as a group the Toledo bullpen was the reason the Mud Hens bested Durham 6-1 at Fifth Third Field last night.
The Hen pen was asked to hold the Bulls at bay after starter Macay McBride left after one inning. And the Hens were more than up to the task, allowing just four hits and a single run in eight innings and not walking a hitter.
"My first thought was, 'How are we going to get nine innings?'•" Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish admitted. "But we got three out of Johnson, and we got three out of Rapada, and those both were huge.
"Our bullpen did a great job."
The Bulls scratched out their lone run off Johnson in the third. With one out Alex Jamieson singled, moved to second on a groundout, took third on a single by Andy Cannizaro and scored on Justin Ruggiano's single.
But Johnson struck out Evan Longoria to strand Cannizaro and Ruggiano, then pitched around a one-out double by Joel Guzman in the fourth.
Johnson allowed just four hits and did not walk a batter while striking out five in three innings to claim the victory.
"I just tried to come in, throw strikes and give us as many innings as I could," Johnson said. Rapada was even more impressive, retiring all nine Bulls he faced, fanning three and allowing just one ball to leave the infield.
"When you know the team needs you to pick up innings, you have to work fast but you can't think they have to swing at the first pitch," Rapada said. "You have to throw strikes, then when they get aggressive you have to work off that and stretch the strike zone."
Rapada's first two innings were so efficient, he was given the chance to pitch a third - and retired the Bulls on just seven pitches.
For the second straight night the Mud Hens' offense was led by Jeff Larish, who did one better than his home run Friday by slamming a pair last night.
Toledo struck first for three runs in the first off Durham starter Jae Kuk Ryu. Henry Mateo led off by doubling, then moved to third on Derek Wathan's single to left.
Timo Perez hit a sacrifice fly that brought home Mateo, and one out later Larish lined his second home run of the season over the fence in right.
The game remained 3-1 until the eighth when Hessman lined a double off the left-field wall, and Larish lined another laser over the right-field fence, giving him three carbon-copy homers and seven RBIs in three games.
"They were both fastballs in," Larish said of last night's two home runs. "I'm just looking for a pitch I can drive, and I was fortunate to turn on them and drive them."
But Toledo wasn't finished with Henderson as Brent Clevlen tripled into the right-field corner, then came home on a line-drive single to right by Matt Joyce.
The only bad news for the Hens last night was loss of McBride, who was pulled because of elbow tenderness. Parrish said McBride would have a doctor look at the elbow today, and the Mud Hens are expected to make a move to replace McBride.
Contact John Wagner at: