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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2008

Hens rough up Pawtucket ace

BY KEN CASTRO
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - For the third consecutive night, Pawtucket Red Sox faithful squeezed into McCoy Stadium eager to catch a glimpse of rehabbing slugger David Ortiz.

And while the personable designated hitter didn't disappoint by hitting a towering solo homer in his second at-bat, his third of the series, it was the Mud Hens who flaunted their offensive prowess in a 13-5, 16-hit win over the Eastern Division leaders.

Held to a pair of hits the previous night, the Mud Hens, bolstered by homers from Erik Almonte and Clete Thomas, exploded for nine runs through the first two innings, paving the way for their first win of the four-game set. Toledo improved to 1-4 against the Paw Sox on the season.

The Mud Hens struck early against knuckleballer Charlie Zink, getting a one-out, RBI single from Brent Clevlen in the top half of the first to take a 1-0 edge. Later in the inning, Almonte took Zink deep to left center with two on base. Zink, who began the day as the International League's ERA leader with a 2.22 mark, ran into trouble again in the following inning, giving up an RBI single to Derek Wathan before Thomas unloaded a grand slam to right center for a 9-0 advantage. Zink worked 12/3 innings before being pulled in favor of righty Jose Vaquedano.

"We got out quickly against him," Parrish said. "Obviously he's been pitching much better than that, but tonight we came out and hit him. We hit a lot of knuckleballs during BP, but I don't know if that had anything to do with it."

Thomas finished with three hits and five RBIs to lead the Mud Hens.

"He's the key for us right now," said Parrish of Thomas. "We're short a few players now and we need him to step up, and he did that tonight."

Toledo was again without Mike Hessman, who didn't make the trip because of the death of his grandmother.

Toledo starter Chris Lambert entered the game with a streak of 14 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. The righty worked six innings, allowing nine hits while striking out eight in earning the win.

"They swing the bats, they have good stats, and I think a couple of our [pitchers] were being awful careful," said Parrish. "This is a good hitters ballpark, and when you put that together with a team swinging the bats, you better be more aggressive."

Toledo pushed two runs across in the top half of the seventh, receiving and RBI base hit from catcher Dane Sardinha and a sacrifice fly from Kody Kirkland. Toledo added to the rout with a pair of runs in the seventh and tacked on solo runs in the following two innings.

With the score 9-2 in the last half of the third, Ortiz touched up Lambert for his third home run of the series, lifting a 3-1 offering to right center field and narrowing the Hens lead to six.

Lambert fanned Ortiz (1 for 4, with two strikeouts) with one on and one away in the last of the fifth before George Kottaras laced an RBI single in the fifth, closing the gap to 9-4.



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