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Published: Monday, 7/26/2010

Short-handed Hens win third straight

Maxwell Leon slides safely into home in the third inning. Maxwell Leon slides safely into home in the third inning.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who would be in the lineup for the Mud Hens Sunday night.

Jeff Larish and Will Rhymes were called up to the Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon, leaving the Hens will just 10 position players - with the 10th being backup catcher Max St-Pierre.

Hens manager Larry Parrish's message to his team before the game was basically: "Don't get hurt." His players managed to do just that, and they picked up a 2-0 win over the Buffalo Bisons for their third straight victory.

"Everybody was talking about that before the game, so luckily nothing happened and we didn't have to do anything crazy out there," Toledo second baseman Justin Henry said. "It was definitely a little different, like we had the pitchers over there coaching first base because we didn't have any extra position players."

The Hens (51-51) also moved back to .500 on the year for the first time since July 2, when they were 41-41. They still find themselves in last place in the International League West Division, 11 1/2 games back of Columbus, but are just three games back of Syracuse in the wild card standings.

"We're playing really well here lately, and hopefully we can keep building on that," Henry said. "I know there was a bad little stretch there where the team didn't play well, but we've really bounced back and played well lately."

Henry and right-handed starter Alfredo Figaro proved instrumental in the Hens continuing to find success Sunday night. Henry finished 2 for 3 at the plate and gave Toledo a 1-0 advantage in the third inning with his RBI single to center field off Buffalo starter Ramon Ortiz (1-3).

Figaro (9-6) made that lead stand up by throwing seven scoreless innings, then turning it over to relievers Daniel Schlereth and Jay Sborz.

"I just tried to throw strikes," Figaro said. "I didn't try to do anything crazy. I just stayed focused on getting outs."

The Hens added an insurance run in the sixth after Ryan Strieby and Casper Wells led off the inning with back-to-back singles to left field. Strieby then scored on Ben Guez's fielder's choice after Buffalo shortstop Ruben Tejada short-hopped his throw to first baseman Mike Hessman while attempting to turn a double play that would have ended the inning. Instead the ball skipped away from Hessman and Toledo took a 2-0 lead.

That proved to be more than enough for Figaro, who surrendered just three hits and two walks while striking out six.

"With Ramon and Figgy matching up, you knew on paper it wasn't going to be a high-scoring game," Parrish said. "We needed Figgy to go deep in the game today, whether or not he held them down or they scored a lot of runs. We were just hoping for him to go six [innings] and keep us in the game. Instead we got seven shutout innings, so that was more than we could have hoped for."

HESSMAN HONORED: Hessman, the Mud Hens' all-time home run leader, was honored before the game with a video highlighting several of the 140 homers he hit in a Toledo uniform.

Mud Hens president Joe Napoli and Parrish also presented Hessman with a framed, specially designed Hens jersey that had his name, number and a hand-painted picture of him on it.

"He gave us five great years here, not only offensively but he was also a tremendous third baseman," Parrish said. "That was a very nice gesture by our front office to do that for him. I'm sure it'll be something that'll go in his home."

Contact Zach Silka at:zsilka@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.

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