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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2008

Mud Hens win laugher, but relief draws some frowns

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Hens third baseman Mike Hessman hits his International League-leading 11th home run of the season last night. Hens third baseman Mike Hessman hits his International League-leading 11th home run of the season last night.
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For the second straight game the Mud Hens won a laugher at Fifth Third Field.

But for the second consecutive contest Toledo suffered through some anxious moments before outslugging Lehigh Valley 11-7 in the IronPigs' first-ever game here.

"I don't know if my hair can get much grayer," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said even though his team claimed its third straight win and its 11th victory in the last 13 contests.

The problem wasn't the Hens' offense, which tied its season high with 11 runs while either tying or setting three more season highs to roar to a 7-0 lead entering the sixth.

The problem was the Toledo bullpen, which surrendered seven runs in those final four frames and allowed Lehigh Valley to bring the potential game-tying run to the plate in the seventh, then the possible go-ahead run in the eighth.

"We just started throwing the ball over the middle of the plate," Parrish said.

"I don't care what kind of stuff you've got, you can't throw it down the middle."

The game was scoreless until the Mud Hens pounded out five runs in a two-out rally in the third off Lehigh Valley starter Kevin Beirne. The rally began when Michael Hollimon led off with a single, then moved to second when Clete Thomas walked.

The Hens  Timo Perez looks skyward before crossing the plate after hitting a home run. He went 4-for-4, including a triple.
The Hens Timo Perez looks skyward before crossing the plate after hitting a home run. He went 4-for-4, including a triple.
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Two outs later, Brent Clevlen got things rolling with a two-run double into the right-center gap.

"I wasn't picking up the fastball out of his hand [in the first inning]," said Clevlen, who struck out in a similar situation to end the first. "But he threw me a hanging breaking ball [in the third], and I put a good swing on it and squared it up."

Erick Almonte followed Clevlen's hit with a walk, and Timo Perez smacked a two-run triple to the wall in right-center. Jackson Melian finished the rally by grounding an RBI single up the middle.

"We're very happy with the lineup we're throwing out there every night," Parrish said. "And we still have a couple of guys who haven't hit their stride yet."

One of those players is Perez, who snapped an 0-for-11 streak with four hits in four at-bats, including a solo homer just under the Roost in the fifth.

Every starter except Thomas and Dane Sardinha had at least one hit. Mike Hessman clobbered his International League-leading 11th home run of the season to straightaway center in the fourth, and Jeff Larish added his ninth homer of the year, a three-run shot that capped Toledo's scoring in the eighth.

"With this team, it doesn't matter how many outs we have or who's up, we're going to hit the ball and score some runs," Clevlen said. "But you never know about this game. You can get a five-run lead, and the other team can score some runs and catch up quick.

"If you let up on the gas pedal a little bit, that's when teams catch you. You have to keep putting the pressure on."

There seemed to be more than enough offense for starter Virgil Vasquez, who walked the first batter before retiring 14 consecutive IronPigs in his first start since coming off the disabled list.

"I was kind of excited, which is why I walked the first batter on four pitches," Vasquez admitted. "But it was good to start pitching out of the stretch because there was less movement. I went after the hitters after that, and it was a fun outing after that."

It wasn't as much fun for Parrish after Vasquez left with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth. Anastacio Martinez allowed all three runs to score, then gave up another run in the sixth before leaving with one run in, one on and one out in the seventh.

Matt Rusch replaced Martinez and got two outs to end the seventh before surrendering four hits in the eighth. He got a double play after the first single, then avoided further trouble when Francis Beltran struck out Brandon Watson with the bases loaded after Rusch allowed three more hits.

Beltran wasn't so lucky in the ninth, giving up a pair of doubles for one run and a wild pitch that scored another, but survived to claim his first save of the season.

"We didn't pitch very well," Parrish said. "Some of the guys in the bullpen are going to have to step it up a notch.

"We can't be sending the same three or four guys out there and have them last until August, so some other guys in the bullpen are going to have to step it up a notch."

NOTES: Bowling Green native Andy Tracy is a member of the IronPigs. Tracy had the RBI double in the ninth, his lone hit in five at-bats. Former Hen Steve Green pitched in relief for Lehigh Valley, giving up two hits and a run in two innings.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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