Last night was Ruddy Lugo's night, thanks in large part to Mike Hessman.
Lugo pitched the Mud Hens to a 4-2 victory over Columbus at Fifth Third Field, earning his 13th win of the season. Lugo will finish tied for first in the International League in victories.
“They had a lot of lefties [in the lineup], and my change-up and curveball were really working,” said Lugo, who allowed just four hits and only one earned run in seven innings. “The goal was to go out there and compete and keep my team in the game.
“It feels great. I told the guys that I was going for a career high [in wins], and they picked me up. To lead the league in anything feels great.”
Some shoddy infield defense cost the Mud Hens in the second. With one on and one out, Lugo got Stephen Head to hit a tailor-made double-play ball to second.
Scott Sizemore threw to shortstop Audy Ciriaco for one out, but Ciriaco dropped the ball to allow Head to reach first.
Jesus Merchan then hit a soft grounder off Lugo's glove towards second; Sizemore's throw to first got past Max Leon, allowing Merchan to reach base and Head to take third.
Head came home when Ryan Blair topped a slow grounder down the third-base line for an infield single.
Columbus added a run in the fourth when Wes Hodges led off with a double, then scored on a two-out double by Merchan.
“They earned the run in the fourth, but we helped them out with the run in the second,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “We had a couple of chances to get out of the inning, and then [they scored] on a swinging bunt. I was hoping we wouldn't get beat on that one.”
It looked possible, though, because the Mud Hens had just four hits off Columbus starter Chuck Lofgren in the first five innings — which was a bit of a surprise, since Lofgren entered the game with an 0-3 record and 15.00 ERA against the Hens.
But in the sixth Lofgren walked the first hitter, Sizemore, on four pitches, then gave up a double to Don Kelly. Hessman then smoked a 1-1 pitch over the left-field fence for his 22nd home run of the season and 200th in Triple-A.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to handle,” Hessman said. “Believe me when I tell you, I was just trying to get the guy in [from third].
“The guys in front of me set the table, and after I swung through a fastball on the pitch before, I told myself to slow down and relax.”
The homer was the team's first since Aug. 22 at Columbus, a span of 10 games. It also turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead.
“I was jumping up and down [when Hessman hit the homer],” Lugo said. “It felt great, because I knew I had a chance to get that 13th win.”
The Hens added a run in the eighth when Sizemore singled, stole second, and scored on a single by Kelly, and Freddy Dolsi backed up Lugo with two scoreless innings to claim his ninth save.
“That was good for Ruddy,” Parrish said. “He's had a good year for us, and it was good to see him go out on a good note.”
Today will be Hessman's turn to shine; Parrish said that Hessman will play all nine positions for the Hens, making him the first Toledo player to do so since Kevin Hooper in the final home game of 2005.
NOTES: Before the game, the Mud Hens added RHP Lester Oliveros to the roster from Single-A Lakeland. Oliveros was 4-2 with a pair of saves and a 4.17 ERA in 34 relief appearances for the Flying Tigers. … RHP Armando Galarraga will not start for the Hens today, as previously scheduled. Galarraga will start for Detroit tomorrow instead. RHP Josh Rainwater will start for the Mud Hens today.
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