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Published: Saturday, 7/4/2009

Big first inning lifts Mud Hens past Clippers

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens scored six times in the first inning and cruised to an 8-2 win over Columbus at Fifth Third Field last night.

Toledo sent 10 batters to the plate in that opening inning and benefited from six hits off Clippers starter Aaron Laffey. The key hits included a run-scoring triple by Wilkin

Ramirez, a two-run triple by Brent Clevlen, and a two-run homer by Jeff Frazier off the bricks at the base of the left-field scoreboard.

The Hens added a run in the second on a double by Clete Thomas and a single by Clevlen, then added another run in the seventh thanks to a wild pitch.

That was more than enough offense to make a winner out of Toledo starter Brooks Brown, who improved to 2-6 on the year. Brown allowed a first-inning run on a leadoff homer by Michael Brantley, then held the Clippers in check until the sixth.

In that frame, he allowed Columbus to load the bases with none out but got Stephen Head to ground into a double play and Josh Barfield to ground out to limit the damage to a single run.

Newcomer Josh Rainwater pitched a scoreless seventh in his Toledo debut, while Ryan Perry struck out three in the final two innings to close out the win, the Hens' third in the last four contests.

PITCHING IN: No one wants to fall behind by 16 runs, which was the situation the Mud Hens faced in Columbus Thursday night.

But the lopsided loss to the Clippers did provide a chance for Toledo's Frazier to show his ability as a pitcher.

"I was feeling pretty good in the pen - ask [catcher Max] St-Pierre, my curveball was dirty," Frazier said before yesterday's game at Fifth Third Field. "Then I got into the game and tried to do a little too much. I was trying to get outs instead of throwing strikes.

"Then I thought I should get the ball over the plate, let them hit it, and see what happens."

What happened was trouble. Frazier gave up back-to-back walks, an RBI double to Matt LaPorta, and a three-run homer to Tony Graffanino.

Frazier eventually got out of the seventh, and Mike Hessman came on in the eighth. While Frazier struggled, Hessman dominated: He retired three Clippers on three pitches.

"I knew I would throw strikes, so I wanted Dane to call a normal game," Hessman said. "He was giving me locations and spots - I wasn't going to go up their throwing cookies, that's for sure."

Frazier and Hessman were the first Toledo position players to take the mound since Kevin Hooper pitched the ninth inning of a game against Indianapolis on Sept. 5, 2005.

Hooper earned the save in the Hens victory that day and played all nine positions on the field in the process.

Hessman, who also pitched for the Hens in a 2005 game, said Triple-A hitters do not like to face position players on the mound.

"I know, as a hitter, when you see a position player come in to pitch, it [stinks]," Hessman said.

"You're expected to get a hit [against a position player], and if you don't, you feel like dirt afterwards.

"As a hitter, you really don't want to [face a position player]."

Both Frazier and Hessman agreed that spending some time toeing the rubber gave them an appreciation for the job Triple-A pitchers do.

"As a hitter, you get a tunnel vision on facing pitchers every day," Hessman said. "When you're standing up [on the mound] getting ready to throw them in there, it's totally different.

"Granted, you never want to get in that position where you have to do that. But after the game, instead of getting down because you got your tail whipped, you can joke and laugh about it."

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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