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Published: 7/1/2008

Almonte stays hot in Hens' victory

BY JARROD ULREY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

COLUMBUS - Mud Hens infielder Erick Almonte probably wishes last night wasn't the final day of June.

After spending much of May barely over the Mendoza line, Almonte hit .330 in June with two home runs and eight RBIs.

His bat stayed hot in last night's 6-4 victory at Cooper Stadium.

With Toledo leading 3-2 and with the bases loaded in the sixth, Almonte swatted a single to center to drive in two runs and continue an inning in which 10 Mud Hens went to the plate.

Almonte also doubled in the second and eighth innings to help first-place Toledo snap a two-game skid and move three games ahead of the Clippers in the International League West.

"I've just been working hard and trying to drive the ball to the middle of the field," Almonte said. "I just want to keep hitting the ball and be aggressive."

The Mud Hens took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Freddy Guzman led off with a single and later scored on a groundout by Jeff Larish, but Clippers starter Tyler Clippard allowed just one hit and two baserunners over the next four innings.

Columbus tied it at 1 on a solo home run by Jorge Padilla in the first and took a 2-1 lead in the third when Ofilio Castro singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a groundout and home on a single by Tommy Murphy.

Toledo broke through against Clippard (4-6) in the sixth.

Timo Perez homered to deep right to open the inning. Mike Hessman followed with a single and scored on a double by Larish. Brent Clevlen walked and Fernando Seguignol was hit by a pitch to end Clippard's night.

Almonte broke it open with

his two-run single off reliever Tim Bittner, who also allowed a sacrifice fly to Guzman as the Mud Hens built a 6-2 lead.

Toledo starter Lauren Gagnier (3-2) was solid after giving up the early runs, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings.

With closer Blaine Neal unavailable because he had thrown more than 40 combined pitches on Friday and Saturday, Francis Beltran came in with two outs and two runners on in the ninth and got Murphy to fly out to earn his second save.

The Clippers made it 6-3 in the seventh before their threat came up short in the ninth.

"We just started hitting," manager Larry Parrish said. "It didn't look like [Clippard] was doing anything different and I know we didn't do anything different. We've been doing that a lot where when one guy gets it going we have a bunch of good at-bats and score four or five runs."

NOTES: The Mud Hens will send Yorman Bazardo (2-4, 6.05) to the mound tonight at 7:05 against Garrett Mock (4-2, 3.23). Bazardo won his first game since May 1 when he gave up five earned runs in 52/3 innings in a 10-5 victory over Syracuse on June 26. ... Shortstop Ramon Santiago joined the Hens for last night's game on a rehab assignment and went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.



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