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Mud Hens

Hens string together wins

Nevin cautiously optimistic

Hens-Ryan-Strieby-June-14-2011

The Hens' Ryan Strieby makes it to second base as Rochester short stop Tsuyoshi Nishioka waits for the throw.

The Blade/Lori King
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For the first time this season, the Mud Hens have won home games on consecutive nights after Monday’s 2-1 win over Rochester.

It wasn’t pretty, as Toledo starter Andy Oliver labored with his control, walking five in six innings. It also wasn’t easy, because the offense mustered just seven hits.

None of that mattered to Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin.

“I’ve said for a long time that you can’t get on a roll until you win two in a row at home,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re on a roll, and I’m not saying we’re hot.

“But we’ve played good baseball the past two nights and I’m happy about that.”

Oliver struggled with his control through the early part of his six innings, eventually walking five batters. But he held the Red Wings in check, allowing them just one hit with a runner in scoring position, and surrendered only one unearned run while striking out a season-high nine.

“He found a way to get it done,” Nevin said of Oliver. “Did we like what happened leading up to that point? No. But he found a way to get it done.

“That won’t translate into success at the next level, it just doesn’t. He found a way to pitch through it, but it has to be better.”

Oliver struggled to command his fastball in the second, walking the first two batters he faced on nine pitches. He mishandled a ground ball back to him to load the bases with no one out, and after a strikeout he walked Toby Gardenhire to force home a run.

“The ball was cutting and running and I couldn’t command it very well,” Oliver said of his fastball. “So I went to my secondary pitches and pitched my way out of it.

“In the fifth and sixth inning I fixed a minor mechanical flaw and had better command.”

Oliver caught a line drive back to him to start an inning-ending double play in the second, then pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth.

“If I didn’t have my secondary pitches, it would have been a long night,” Oliver said. “I thought my secondary stuff was consistent, and I was able to go to it when I was struggling with the fastball.”

In the seventh Nevin went to his bullpen, and the trio of Brendan Wise, Matt Hoffman, and Lester Oliveros allowed just two hits to close out the win. Oliveros struck out three of the six hitters he faced to earn his fourth save.

“Wow, they were good,” Nevin said of his bullpen. “But I’ve got a good bullpen. It’s a luxury to have quality arms down there.”

Meanwhile the Mud Hens offense found a way to score twice in the fourth and claim the win. Ryan Strieby led off with a line drive that Red Wings rightfielder Jeff Bailey seemed to lose in the sun, allowing it to fall for a double. Scott Thorman followed with a bloop double down the right-field line that scored Strieby.

With two outs, Omir Santos hit the ball hard down the third-base line, and it got past third baseman Chase Lambin for a double that plated Thorman with the game-winning run.

“That was a tough play down the line,” Nevin said of Santos’s hit. “Strieby’s ball was in the sun. When you’re winning, those things go your way.

“A couple of days ago, that ball probably would have been caught.”

NOTES: The Mud Hens sent RHP Robbie Weinhardt to Double-A Erie to make room for RHP Enrique Gonzalez, who will join the Hens Tuesday. Gonzalez will join the Hens rotation, piggybacking starts with RHP L.J. Gagnier. ... Detroit LHP Brad Thomas will begin a rehab assignment with Toledo Tuesday night.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.

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