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The Mud Hens came into Thursday night’s game having lost three in a row and six of their last seven.
But there was one thing the Hens hadn’t lost: their willingness to fight through adversity. And that helped Toledo post a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Lehigh Valley at Fifth Third Field.
“Even though we’ve lost a few games here, we haven’t lost that [intensity],” Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve battled, we’ve played hard, and you see a lot of dirty uniforms.
“We’ve got a lot of guys grinding, and I’m proud of that. When you play like that, you’ll have more good runs than bad runs.”
Offensively, the Hens finished in double digits in hits for the second straight night with 12. The difference between Wednesday’s loss and Thursday night’s win was that several of those hits came in key situations and led to runs.
Toledo got a break when Lehigh Valley starter Eddie Bonine was ejected in the first inning for arguing an umpire’s call — IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg also was thrown out of the game for vehemently arguing the Bonine ejection. That meant Lehigh Valley was forced to use its bullpen early, and the Mud Hens took advantage to score three runs off Chance Chapman.
Ben Guez, Will Rhymes and Cale Iorg all singled to produce one run, and Omir Santos laid down a sacrifice to put runners on second and third with one out. Andy Dirks fell behind 1-2 but managed to lift a sacrifice fly to center that tied the game, and Danny Worth followed with a clutch two-out single to score Iorg with the go-ahead run.
“He fell behind early — I had him 2-0 and 3-1, so I was in good hitter’s counts,” Worth said. “I knew I would get something good to hit, so I tried to put an aggressive swing on it.”
The Mud Hens had been pressing in the first three games against the IronPigs, going 1-for-18 when batting with runners in scoring position. That was something Worth took as a challenge.
“That’s not something you thing about, but [hitting with runners in scoring position] is something that gives you a little extra energy when you’re up at the plate,” he admitted. “It takes a little mental toughness, a feeling of, ‘I’ve got to get this done.’
“If you watch guys at the next level, they do it all the time like it’s nothing.”
That rally helped the Hens overcome an early 2-0 deficit that occurred when Toledo starter Charlie Furbush gave up a first-inning two-run homer to Tagg Bozied.
“The first couple of innings I was leaving the ball up,” Furbush said. “I have to tip my cap to my defense, because they were making great plays behind me.
“I just had to make some adjustments, and luckily it worked out pretty well.”
The tide seemed to turn for the Hens in the top of the second when Furbush pitched out of a jam that saw the IronPigs push a runner to third with only one out. Furbush got a groundout that held the runner in place, then a flyout to end the inning, and the Hens scored three times in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good.
“It’s important to bounce back when a team jumps on you,” Worth said. “Luckily we put up a three-spot, and Furbush took it home for us.
“You know that if you give him some runs, he’s going to do well for you.”
After the second inning Furbush allowed just three baserunners in his final five scoreless innings of work. He finished with six strikeouts, evening his season’s record at 3-3 while lowering his ERA to 2.90.
“The good, front-of-the-rotation guys come back and throw a zero on the board in the second inning,” Nevin said. “Then we scored three, and we get the lead back.
“We saw it the other day with Jake Peavy: when you give up runs, but your offense comes back and gives you the lead, the good ones don’t give up the lead again. And Charlie did that, which showed me a lot about him.”
The Hens added a run in the sixth when Guez doubled, moved to third on a bunt single by Rhymes, and scored when Iorg hit into a double play.
Brendan Wise and Enrique Gonzalez both pitched a scoreless inning to close out the win, with Gonzalez earning his fourth save.
NOTES: Thursday marked the third time in five games that a Mud Hen opponent was ejected. Charlotte manager Joe McEwing was tossed on Sunday, while Bonine was ejected from the bench on Monday along with IronPigs pitching coach Rod Nichols. ... Worth and Rhymes each finished with three hits, while Guez had two, giving that trio eight of the team’s 12 hits. ... The Mud Hens fly to the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett Friday to begin an eight-game road trip with the first of four contests against the Braves. First pitch Friday is at 7:05 p.m.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.