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Published: 5/30/2009

French ensures victory for Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Friday night both the Mud Hens and visiting Charlotte made a pair of gaffes that easily could have escalated into big trouble.

The difference in Toledo's 5-1 win over the Knights was that Hens starter Lucas French pitched over those rough patches, while the Mud Hen offense was able to take advantage of the Charlotte miscues to score all of its runs.

French induced the Knights to hit into a pair of double plays to blunt two rallies while twice pitching over errors by teammates that extended innings.

"Yeah, everyone makes mistakes, but that's what it takes to be a good teammate," French said. "You have to back up your teammates.

"You have to not let [a mistake] snowball into something bigger - you have to shut it down as soon as it happens."

The first error by the Hens came in the third, when with two outs and a runner on second French got a ground ball to Will Rhymes at second. Rhymes threw low to first, where Mike Hessman wasn't able to pick up the throw for an error.

But French promptly struck out Gordon Beckham to end that threat.

That whiff, one of six on the night by the left-hander, started a string of nine straight Knights retired before Beckham singled with two outs in the sixth. French coaxed the next batter, Andy Phillips, to hit a routine fly to left that Jeff Frazier dropped.

But French got Michael Restovich to ground out, then pitched over back-to-back leadoff hits in the seventh to finish with just five hits allowed in seven shutout innings in just his second start back in Toledo after a promotion to Detroit earlier this month.

"You get into a routine, and when it gets broken it can be tough," said French, who struggled against Gwinnett on May 23 in his first start back with the Mud Hens. "That's not an excuse for how I pitched last week. But it felt good to get my work in, and I felt a lot sharper."

While French was pitching around trouble, the Hens offense managed to take advantage of two Charlotte mistakes.

In the third, Danny Worth doubled off the wall in left with one out, then moved to third on a groundout by Rhymes.

Jeff Frazier then lifted a high popup behind the third base that should have been caught to end the inning. But the popup drifted back behind shortstop into shallow left, and Eider Torres wasn't able to catch it, which allowed Worth to score.

Marcus Thames looped a single to left that pushed Frazier to second, and both runners scored when Don Kelly doubled.

The double extended Kelly's current hit streak to 10 games.

Toledo added a pair of runs in the eighth, again taking advantage of Charlotte misplays. With one out, Kelly doubled off the wall in straight-away center, then took third as Brent Clevlen beat out a slow roller to third.

Kelly took a wide turn off third and appeared to get picked off the base. Instead he scampered home and scored when Beckham's throw from third went past the catcher.

Clevlen took second on that play, and he scored when Brent Dlugach lined a single to left.

"When they glitched, we followed it up with hits to put runs across," Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We took advantage of our situations. "But the last three games we've also had better at-bats. We're putting the ball in play better, and we just look like we're turning the corner."

Charlotte finally managed a run in the eighth off reliever Casey Fien as Brent Lillibridge led off with a triple, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Beckham.

But Fien finished off the game to earn his fourth save.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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