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Five days ago L.J. Gagnier made his first start for the Mud Hens this season.
It wasn't pretty.
But last night Gagnier had much more success against the Durham team that roughed him up in his first start. The right-hander allowed just three hits and a walk in seven shutout innings to pitch Toledo to a 5-3 victory over the Bulls.
What was different?
"I felt I did a better job of slowing the game down," Gagnier said. "In your first outing you always want to impress your teammates and coaches, and the game can start moving
"In this second go-round I tried to execute my pitches."
In Gagnier's start at Durham the 25-year-old right-hander allowed eight hits and five runs but didn't survive the fourth inning. Last night he didn't allow a hit until Joe Dillon singled to lead off the fifth, and he did not allow a Bull past second while striking out three.
"He had a softer breaking ball [than in his first start], and that caused them to hit some balls off the end of the bat," Parrish said. "And because the breaking ball was so good, they weren't able to catch up to the fastball as well and hit a lot of fly-ball outs."
Gagnier said he's a different pitcher than he was in 2008, when he made seven starts for the Hens and went 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA.
"I've learned how to read hitters better," he said. "There are small things that are going on in the game that you don't see when you're younger. The experiences I had when I was younger are helping me two years later."
One change that Lauren Joseph Gagnier made was with his name: he was known as Lauren Gagnier in his first go-round with the Hens.
"I felt I struggled a little bit in 2008, especially with all of the jumping around," said Gagnier, who pitched at four different levels that season. "I wanted to get a fresh start in 2009, so I made a little change."
Gagnier finished with a 10-10 record last season and threw well for Double-A Erie to start this season, posting a 3-0 record and 2.83 ERA.
"I had success in Erie by throwing first-pitch strikes," he said. "I'm not going to blow the ball by anyone, so I need to be able to throw a mix of quality pitches."
The Mud Hens offense supported Gagnier by scratching out single runs in five different innings. In the second Jeff Frazier led off with a double and came home on a single by Deik Scram.
In the fifth Will Rhymes singled, and Frazier followed a two-out walk to Jeff Larish by doubling over the head of Justin Ruggiano in right field to score Rhymes.
Toledo added an unearned run in the sixth without the benefit of a hit as Scram walked, stole second, then tried to go to third on a sacrifice bunt by Max St-Pierre. Durham reliever Mike Ekstrom threw to third in time to retire Scram, but his wild throw instead allowed Scram to score.
With two outs and none on in the seventh, Ben Guez worked Bulls reliever Winston Abreu for a walk, and Scram drove him in with a double down the right-field line.
And the Hens got a second unearned run in the eighth when Rhymes reached on an error, stole second, and scored on a single by Brent Dlugach.
"[Bulls starter Carlos Hernandez] can pitch," Parrish said. "He really shut us down in Durham. We didn't exactly kill him in this game, but we pushed a few across."
All those runs proved to be important when the Bulls scored three times in the ninth off Jay Sborz. A run-scoring double by Chris Richard and a two-run double by Alvin Colina brought the potential game-tying run to the plate before Sborz retired Rashad Eldridge on a fly ball to close out the Hens' fourth straight victory.
NOTES: The plans for Detroit IF Carlos Guillen in Toledo have changed. Guillen will be at Fifth Third Field today through Friday to work on his running and on playing second base. Guillen, who went on the Tigers' disabled list roughly a month ago, isn't expected to play for the Hens until they begin a series in Syracuse Saturday. … 1B Jeff Larish pulled a groin muscle running the bases last night and won't be available today. … OF Clete Thomas was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. … RHP Ruddy Lugo threw a simulated game before yesterday's contest. … OF-1B Ryan Strieby hit against Lugo yesterday and may be activated from the disabled list as early as today.
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