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Published: Friday, 7/11/2008

Martinez, Almonte lift Hens over Indianapolis

BY PETE CAVA
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

INDIANAPOLIS - Five International League All-Stars suited up for the opener of the four-game Mud Hens-Indians series in Indianapolis. But the heroes of Thursday's 3-1 Toledo victory turned out to be three players who won't be in Louisville for next week's I.L.-Pacific Coast League classic.

Hens starter Anastacio Martinez turned in his best outing of the season, doling out five hits and a walk while striking out five in eight innings. Designated hitter Erick Almonte drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning.

Indianapolis starter Jason Davis matched Martinez's effort through seven and two-third innings, but wasn't involved in the decision. "Both guys, Davis and Martinez, pitched a good game," said Almonte. "Martinez was keeping the ball down and throwing a lot of strikes, and that was the key to the game."

Toledo (53-42) has now won four straight after snapping a six-game losing streak. The win, coupled with a loss by I.L. West-leading Columbus to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Louisville's win over Buffalo, keeps the Hens in a tie with the Bats for second place. Toledo and the Bats now trail the Clippers by half a game.

Martinez (2-1) was pleased with his performance. "It was my best start of the year," said the Dominican right-hander. "I was in control of all my pitches, like I could throw strikes any time I wanted to - my fastball, changeup, and my sinker, too."

The Hens took a 1-0 lead in the second. Brent Clevlen drew a one-out walk and was forced at second by Almonte. Max St. Pierre followed with a grounder up the middle that eluded second baseman Josh Wilson and shortstop Brian Bixler. Almonte scampered to third on the play and flew home on Max Leon's single to right.

The Indians (44-51) evened the score in the third. Matt Kata opened the frame with a double to left-center off Martinez, who was making his fourth start. When Josh Wilson followed with a bloop single past short, Kata came around to make it 1-1.

Toledo's solid defensive work thwarted Indianapolis in the sixth. Nyjer Morgan started the inning with a bunt single and took second on a wild pitch. As the next batter, Andrew McCutchen, looked at ball four, Morgan took off for third. But St. Pierre nailed him with a strong throw from home to third baseman Mike Hessman.

Neil Walker followed with a single to left that sent McCutchen streaking toward third with an eye on the plate. But McCutchen held up when Hens left fielder Freddy Guzman quickly corralled the ball and heaved it to the cutoff man. The inning ended when Martinez got Indians cleanup hitter Steve Pearce to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play.

Davis, who beat Toledo here on May 31, also turned in a pair of defensive gems, both at Guzman's expense. In the third, the Indians right-hander rifled a throw to first from a sitting, sliding position to gun down the Hens leadoff hitter.

When Guzman again tried to bunt his way on in the eighth, Davis legged toward first and shoveled the ball to Pearce for the out. Davis, who gave way to Franklyn German with two gone in the seventh, allowed five hits and a walk while striking out five.

German (1-1) put himself in a hole in the ninth. Hessman led off with a walk, and Clevlen followed with a bunt that the Indians right-hander couldn't handle. Almonte followed with a line single that brought in Hessman with the lead run. "I was just trying to make good contact, and the ball went into left field," said Almonte.

After a sacrifice bunt by St. Pierre, Leon walked to load the bases. Clevlen rode home on Derek Wathan's fly to right to give Toledo a 3-1 advantage. Blaine Neal pitched a one-hit, scoreless ninth for his league-leading 23rd save of the season.

Neal, Clevlen and Hessman have been named to this year's I.L. All-Star squad, along with McCutchen and Bixler of the Indians.

The series continues Friday with Yorman Bazardo (2-5) going for the Hens. The Indians have not announced a starter.



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