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If the Mud Hens aren't careful, they might be playing more morning games this season.
The team's offense and pitching may have found a solution to some of its recent problems, judging by the 9-2 win the Hens claimed over Lehigh Valley in a 10:30 start at Fifth Third Field Monday.
A crowd of 9,288 saw the offense and pitching come together for one of the few times in recent weeks.
Not only did Hen hitters collect 13 hits, including home runs by Jeff Frazier and Don Kelly, but Toledo also had some better at-bats with runners in scoring position. The result was a three-run outburst in the third, followed by two-run rallies in the three innings that followed.
"You come out early, get some breakfast in you and make sure you take a shower so you're awake," said first baseman Ryan Roberson of the early start. "Then you go out there, stretch and take a few hacks.
"Some times it pays off [to do something different] if you're not swinging well, you're not really there and you just throw the bat on the ball."
The Mud Hens took advantage of a pair of Lehigh Valley errors to score its three runs in the third, with Frazier hitting a sacrifice fly and Brent Clevlen adding an RBI single.
In the fourth Frazier slammed his first Triple-A home run, a two-run shot down the left field line, and Kelly added a solo homer into The Roost in the fifth.
Roberson capped the Hens' scoring with a bases-loaded, two-out single to score a pair in the sixth.
"I had four or five of those [at-bats] with the bases loaded and came through on one, but some of the others didn't go so well," Roberson said. "I tried to not put a lot of pressure on myself.
"I wanted to stay aggressive, look for a good pitch in the [strike] zone, and put a good swing on it. I knew I didn't need a grand slam; I was looking for a base knock to drive a couple of runs in. And it worked out."
Even though Toledo finished with a 2-for-11 mark when batting with runners in scoring position, Hens manager Larry Parrish was pleased with the performance.
"We've had a few games in a row now where we're having better at-bats," Parrish said. "We kept putting pressure on then. We got a sacrifice fly on one of those [at-bats] with a runner on third, and another was a groundout that scored a run. We weren't doing that before."
The awakening of the offense meshed perfectly with a strong performance by Toledo starter Scot Drucker, who evened his record at 2-2 by allowing just two runs in six solid innings.
"He did a great job," Parrish said of Drucker. "His breaking stuff was much better. That's what he was missing early [in the season]. I think when [Dontrelle] Willis came in [to the rotation], it gave [Drucker] a chance to work on some things on the side."
Lehigh Valley's Andy Tracy, a native of Bowling Green, hammered his fifth home run of the season, a solo shot to right in the second, and walked in the fourth before scoring on a two-out double by Pablo Ozuna to account for his team's runs.
Otherwise Drucker had little trouble with IronPigs, finishing with a career-high eight strikeouts.
"For the most part I'm a sinker guy who tries to get early contact," Drucker said. "The strikeouts just kind of happened. I guess it was a matter of throwing first-pitch strikes, which set up the other pitches and led to the strikeouts."
Ron Chiavacci followed Drucker and allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings to claim the save.
NOTES: The Mud Hens are expected to add right-hander Pat Stanley to the roster for tonight's game against Pawtucket. In eight appearances for Single-A Lakeland, Stanley was 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez had an MRI on his injured thumb yesterday, but the results weren't immediately available. His status remains day-to-day. Major league umpire Rick Reed worked behind home plate yesterday. It was the first game Reed has umpired since May 27 of last year after Reed, a 27-year veteran, suffered a stroke.
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If the Mud Hens aren't careful, they might be playing more morning games this season. The team's offense and pitching may have found a solution to some of its recent problems, judging by the 9-2 win the Hens claimed over Lehigh Valley.