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Published: Sunday, 7/5/2009

Mud Hens hitters sizzle, Clippers fall

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens did more than just claim a 7-3 victory over Columbus at Fifth Third Field Saturday night.

Toledo got another productive performance from an offense that had seemed on the verge of wilting a few weeks back, as well as a solid start from Eddie Bonine in winning for the fourth time in the last five games.

"We're showing some life up there at the plate," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "And it's been pretty consistent through the order with a bunch of guys getting hits. Everybody's chipping in, and that's why we're getting more runs on the board.

"And maybe that's our new M.O. with our pitchers:

We give up a home run in the first, then hold them."

For the second straight night the Clippers broke on top with a run in the first as Tony Graffanino launched a long home run to left-center, his fourth of the year.

But that was all Columbus got off Bonine until the seventh, when Andy Marte led off with a double and Stephen Head launched a long homer to right, his third with the Clippers.

Bonine, who had lost four of his last five starts, allowed 10 hits in his seven innings to claim his first win of the season.

"I feel like I'm making progress," said Bonine, who missed almost a month of the season to be with his mother, who passed away because of cancer. "I have to get back into the rhythm of facing hitters, and pitching at game speed.

"I felt a lot more comfortable in the middle innings. [Columbus] is a good-hitting team, and they got their hits, but I thought I made some pitches and hit my spots. I haven't been able to do that in my last few starts."

Bonine got plenty of early support as the Hens retied the game in the second on a home run by Jeff Larish, a long drive to straight-away center. Then Toledo started pulling away, scoring four times in the third and two more in the fourth off Columbus starter Zach Jackson.

The Hens' third-inning rally began when Jeff Frazier's fly into left-center fell between Jordan Brown and Trevor Crowe for a double. Frazier took third on Max St-Pierre's groundout to second, then came home on Will Rhymes ground single through a drawn-in infield.

"We're just trying to hit a ball hard," Rhymes said of his approach when batting with a runner on third and the infield in. "If you try to think too much, or hit a ball to a specific area, you get in trouble. It's something we've struggled with as a team, but if you hit a pitch you can find a hole and make something happen."

And after that, the floodgates seemed to open. Rhymes scored on a double by Wilkin Ramirez, Larish blooped a two-out double over the third baseman's head to bring Ramirez home, and Brent Clevlen plated Larish with a single up the middle.

In the fourth a single by Frazier and a double by St-Pierre put a pair of runners in scoring position for Rhymes, who drove both home with a single to center.

"Hitting definitely is contagious," said Rhymes, one of four Hens with at least two hits last night. "It puts the pitcher on his heels. Hitters dig in and are more confident about hitting a ball hard."

NOTES: Columbus manager Torey Lovullo was ejected in the top of the seventh for arguing a call at second base. Last night's crowd of 10,300 was the Hens' 13th sellout this season and the 224th full house in the eight-year history of Fifth Third Field.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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