Hen coach Phil Nevin, left, congratulates Will Rhymes as he heads home after hitting his first home run of the season.
Toledo did just that, outscoring Rochester 3-0 in the first frame of a 6-3 victory. The win snapped a five-game losing streak at Fifth Third Field and was the team’s ninth home win in 32 tries this season.
“When you give up runs in the first inning, that does deflate you,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “In a way, getting to hit first can be an advantage.
“After we got the zero in the top of the first, you could see a sense of relief in the dugout.”
In the previous five home losses Toledo had given up at least two runs in the first inning four times. The first-inning tally was opponents 14, Hens 0 before Sunday night, so the 1-2-3 first inning starter L.J. Gagnier posted was a confidence booster.
“I’ve never seen a dugout high-fiving after a half inning of play,” Nevin said. “We got the zero, and that loosened things up a little bit.”
Toledo tallied three runs in the bottom of the first off Red Wings starter Eric Hacker. Will Rhymes singled, and one out later he raced to third on a double by Timo Perez. Ryan Strieby walked to load the bases, and with two outs Bryan Pounds lined a two-run single to center.
“To me, that was the biggest at-bat in the game,” Nevin said.
It also was a tough at-bat because Pounds fell behind 0-2, then worked the count to 2-2 before getting the big hit.
“When it went to 0-2, what went through my mind was to not strike out,” Pounds said. “I stepped out and cleared my head.
“I had been chasing sliders in the dirt, and that’s what he was feeding me. But he hung one, and I put a good swing on it.
“When I got to first base, that was a feeling of pure joy. ... And going out onto the field with a 3-0 lead, it definitely was a boost of confidence.”
PHOTO GALLERY: See more pictures from the Mud Hens-Rochester game.
The Mud Hens added a third run on an unusual double steal, with Pounds getting into a rundown and Strieby avoiding the tag of catcher Danny Lehmann at home plate.
“That might be my first steal of home ever,” Strieby said. “Pounds was trying to steal, and I was reading the play as he got into a rundown.
“When the shortstop started running him back I took off for home. The catcher may have had the ball, but I got my hand around his glove and touched the plate before he could tag me.”
From that point the Mud Hens kept adding on runs, getting one in the second on Rhymes’ first home run of the season, then two more in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Rhymes and a two-out RBI single by Argenis Diaz.
That was enough for Gagnier, who weaved into and out of trouble in his five innings of work. He gave up a run in the second on back-to-back leadoff doubles but pitched out of a two-on, none-out jam. Gagnier pitched around a one-out double in the second, then gave up two more runs in the fourth before stranding another runner and pitching out of a two-on, none-out pickle in the fifth.
“He made the pitches when he had to,” Nevin said of Gagnier. “At the end of the day he got through five to get a chance to win, and he gave us a chance to win. That’s what you ask for out of your starter. With our bullpen, that gives you a good chance to win.”
Reliever Matt Hoffman pitched two scoreless innings thanks to a pair of double plays, and Ryan Perry closed the door with two scoreless innings for his third save.
It was the perfect inning of a day that began with only the pitchers taking batting practice as a change of pace.
“We were trying to keep things loose,” Nevin said.
“The way things were going lately, I thought it was something we needed.”
NOTES: Twins IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka began a rehab assignment with the Red Wings yesterday and was 2 for 5 with an RBI double. ... The Tigers sent RHP Enrique Gonzalez to Toledo when they activated OF Magglio Ordonez from the DL after Sunday. ... OF Ben Guez suffered a shoulder injury while trying to check his swing on a pitch Saturday. He was used as a defensive replacement Sunday and should be available to play Monday. ... Tigers LHP Brad Thomas is expected to join the Hens on a rehab assignment Tuesday and will throw one inning. He will travel with the Hens when they begin a road trip Thursday in Louisville.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.