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Published: Sunday, 5/18/2008

Defense backs up Hens'

BY JARROD ULREY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

COLUMBUS - Dontrelle Willis, in his third Major League rehab start as he recovers from a right knee injury, gave up five hits and walked four but gave up his only run in the sixth to lead the Mud Hens to an 8-5 victory over the Columbus Clippers.

"We've got some good defense on this team and it was good to help them get back in the dugout," Willis said.

After giving up five earned runs in 52/3 innings in his last start May 12, Willis allowed one base runner in each of the first four innings but survived unscathed because of his defense.

He induced a double play in the third and benefited from a caught stealing in the first. He helped himself in the second after he gave up a leadoff single to Jorge Padilla by picking him off first.

Willis gave up his only run in the sixth when Ryan Langerhans reached on a one-out single and scored on a double by Alex Escobar.

"It was one of those games where if he made a bad pitch, it was so bad they couldn't hit it," manager Larry Parrish said. "When he threw it good, it was real good."

Willis, who is on the disabled list for the first time in his Major League career, said he felt fine physically after throwing 96 pitches. He improved to 1-1.

"I'm just trying to get back as quickly as I can," Willis said. "Hopefully I'll get back soon. It's about being mentally tough and finding consistency. [The Tigers] have had some tough losses, but I want to get back there and support my teammates."

The Mud Hens took advantage of a wind that gusted toward right field by hitting four home runs.

They took a 1-0 lead in the second when first baseman Jeffrey Larish led off with a homer to right-center.

In the fifth, Toledo made it 2-0 when Dane Sardinha struck out but reached on a passed ball with one out and moved to third on a single by Freddy Guzman. Clete Thomas singled in Sardinha. Brent Clevlen homered to deep center with two out in the sixth to make it 3-0 against Columbus starter Garrett Mock, who struck out five but gave up six hits and one walk to slip to 2-2.

The Mud Hens tagged reliever Bobby Brownlie for their final five runs in the seventh.

Timo Perez singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sardinha and scored on a triple up the gap in right-center. Michael Hollimon and Larish then smashed two-run homers to deep right.

Larish has 14 home runs, including seven since May 1.

Toledo relievers Ian Ostlund and Matt Rusch each surrendered two solo home runs for the final margin.

"We played real solid defense and really haven't been beating ourselves," Parrish said.

The Mud Hens will close a two-game series with the Clippers at 1:05 p.m. today as Casey Fossum (1-0, 2.84) faces Collin Balester (4-2, 3.79).



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