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Published: Monday, 6/14/2010

Hens power surge downs Red Wings

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Jeff Frazier normally isn't a home-run hitter.

"I consider myself a gap-to-gap hitter," the Mud Hens first baseman admitted. "But when I need them to go out, they do go out."

Frazier saw two of his three hits Sunday night leave the ballpark as he helped the Hens claim an 8-3 win over Rochester at Fifth Third Field.

Frazier opened the fourth by slamming a 3-2 pitch by Rochester starter Matt Fox well over the scoreboard in left and onto Monroe Street.

"He threw his cutter well, but he left one up and I was on time with it," Frazier said.

Then in the sixth, after the Red Wings had scored twice to cut the lead to 6-3, Frazier pounded a 2-1 pitch by Rochester reliever Jose Lugo to deep left-center, clearing the 406 marker for his 11th homer in 63 games this year.

"That pitch was a fastball up, and I was lucky to get the bat head out," Frazier said. "Both pitches went flying, so I was happy with that."

It marked the first time Frazier has homered twice since he turned the trick for Single-A Lakeland against Dunedin on Aug. 29, 2006. The 27-year-old native of Toms River, N.J., is just two homers shy of his career high set in 135 games for Single-A Lakeland in 2006.

Frazier credits his power surge this season to work he has done with Mud Hens hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham.

"Bull and I have been working in the cage, [focused] on lift, lift, lift," Frazier said. "I've been hitting too many ground balls the past couple of years. It's more of a home-run approach, but it's working so I'm running with it. I have to give credit to Bull for all the work we've put into it."

After Frazier's sixth-inning shot, Ryan Strieby hammered a 2-0 pitch off the left-field scoreboard for his eighth home run in just 33 games The back-to-back homers by Frazier and Strieby marked the fifth time Toledo has turned the trick this season, and Frazier or Strieby have been involved in each.

"We told Frazier that he was selling himself short [by not trying to hit more homers]," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We always have taught players to try and hit the ball in the air rather than hit the ball on the ground.

"I've never understood teaching players to hit the ball on the ground, especially below-average runners. Double plays usually come on ground balls, you have to find a hole to get a ground-ball hit."

The Hens' home runs helped them avoid a repeat of Saturday's game, when they blew an early 5-0 lead and lost 10-6.

Last night Rochester took an early lead when Jose Morales opened the second with a triple off the wall in left, then came home on a groundout by Dustin Martin. But the Hens trumped that in the bottom of the second, sending 10 batters to the plate and collecting four hits and three walks that turned into five runs.

Will Rhymes stroked a two-run double down the right-field line, while Frazier and Casper Wells added RBI singles.

"[Saturday] hurt us a little bit - that should have been a 'W,' no excuses," Frazier said.

One difference between the two games was that last night Toledo continued to score runs, adding the three late home runs. The other was that the Hens bullpen pitched well, holding the Wings scoreless in the final three frames.

"Those home runs shifted momentum back our way, and we held it them," Parrish said. "Baseball is a game of momentum, and we let them get the momentum Saturday.

"The other difference is that we pitched better [last night]."

Daniel Schlereth allowed two walks but also struck out four in two hitless, scoreless innings while Casey Fien struck out a pair in a 1-2-3 ninth.

NOTES: RHP Scot Drucker will make a spot start for the Hens today against Rochester. The opening in the rotation was caused by the rainout in Lehigh Valley Wednesday.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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