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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2011

Mud Hens notch first home win of the season

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

This one had little in common with the home opener.

Weather conditions were dreary, not sunny. The seats were mostly empty, fans either turned away by the threat of rain or perhaps exhausted from Thursday’s doubleheader. And then there was the absence of Grady Sizemore, the Cleveland Indians star having skipped town Friday to head back home.

The result was different too. After losing twice the day before, the Mud Hens put together a big seventh inning and held on for a 5-4 win over the Columbus Clippers Friday night at Fifth Third Field.

In winning, the Hens (3-6) avoided a sweep at home to start the year and Saturday will begin another three-game series with the Clippers in Columbus.

“Definitely big to get off on the right start here and get a win,” said starting pitcher Charlie Furbush, who did not factor into the decision. “Hopefully we’ll go to Columbus and get three more.”

The game turned in the Hens’ favor when Scott Sizemore knocked in two runs on a seventh-inning double, and Ryan Strieby followed three batters later with a RBI single. The three runs scored matched the three Columbus (6-3) put up in the top half of the inning.

“We’ve been looking for that big hit,” Hens manager Phil Nevin said.

Fu-Te Ni, the fourth of five pitchers used by the Hens, worked 1⅓ innings to pick up the win and improve his record to 2-0. Robbie Weinhardt (1⅓) earned his first save of the year after retiring the side in the ninth.

The game was delayed 30 minutes due to ominous conditions, although the weather cooperated for the most part. The crowd, though sparse, was announced at 6,206.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game came in the top of the sixth inning when left fielder Timo Perez threw out Jason Kipnis at home to end the inning. Kipnis has above average speed, evidenced by his stealing second base earlier in the inning before advancing another base on a ground ball to third. But Perez, standing about midway between the warning track and the infield, was on target with his throw, and catcher Omir Santos did a good job of receiving the ball off a short hop and holding onto it as he applied the tag.

“I tried to throw it easy,” Perez said. “He’s a fast runner, but I was in good position.”

Nevin said the 36-year-old Perez no longer has the arm strength he once had, but he compensates for it with accuracy.

“For me, that was the play of the game there,” Nevin said. “[Momentum] started turning, you could sense it in the dugout. Timo’s emerging as a leader.”

The Indians’ Sizemore, who was expected to continue his rehabilitation assignment Friday night, returned to Cleveland instead. He’s expected to join the Clippers in Columbus sometime on Saturday.

Ryan Perry threw 1⅓ innings on his first day of a rehab assignment with the Hens. Perry, who has appeared in two games with the Tigers this season, allowed two runs — one earned — and allowed three hits.

The lefty Furbush was excellent to begin the game, recording six of his team’s first seven outs via strikeout. He was pulled after facing three batters in the fifth inning, finishing with one earned run, four walks, and six strikeouts.

“I was just in there battling, trying to keep my team in the ball game,” he said. “Luckily, we pulled it out.”

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160



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