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Published: Monday, 7/4/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Mud Hens' pen shines in a pinch

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Hens' Cale Iorg argues a called strike with home plate umpire Toby Basner. The Hens' Cale Iorg argues a called strike with home plate umpire Toby Basner.
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The Mud Hens entered Sunday night's game worried about having to cover nine innings with only its bullpen available.

Fu-Te Ni viewed it as a chance to become a starting pitcher once again.

"I'm glad I had the opportunity to start a game here," Ni said through his interpreter, Yuzheng Xiu. "I was a starter in Taiwan, so this was a chance to reminisce on what it was like to be a starter again."

Ni and the Mud Hens bullpen, forced into extended action because scheduled starter Adam Wilk was promoted to Detroit before the game, put together an outstanding effort. The four pitchers combined to limit Indianapolis to five hits, and pitch the Mud Hens to a 7-1 victory at Fifth Third Field.

Ni, who had made 115 relief appearances in his North American professional career before Sunday night, said he didn't feel any pressure in making his first start here.

"I approached it as more of a long relief appearance rather than starting a game," said Ni, who made 35 starts in Taiwan.

Ni allowed three hits in 4⅓ scoreless innings, while Matt Hoffman pitched three innings, Brendan Wise got two outs, and Jose Ortega pitched the final frame in the win.

"This was as big a team win as we've had all year," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "We've had a few comeback wins that were nice early in the year, and we've had some other nice wins along the way.

"But to this point of the season, this is the best overall team win we've had all season long."

Toledo broke a scoreless tie with a pair of runs in the fifth. Jeff Salazar was hit by a pitch to lead off, and Danny Worth sacrificed him to second before Salazar took third on a passed ball.

Scott Thorman followed by hitting a bouncer that fell in between the Indians' pitcher, first baseman and second baseman for a run-scoring infield hit. Thorman moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Omir Santos and came home on a sacrifice fly by Cale Iorg.

"I really liked the at-bats we were getting on offense," Nevin said. "We got two sacrifice bunts down, we had a good hit-and-run, and our execution was great."

Indianapolis scored its only run in the seventh on a home run by Gorkys Hernandez, but the Mud Hens broke the game open with a four-run rally in the eighth. Will Rhymes doubled and took third on a single by Argenis Diaz. Both baserunners scored on a double down the left-field line by Ben Guez, and Guez trotted home when Ryan Strieby belted his 11th home run of the season.

It was a rally that Nevin said helped the beleaguered bullpen finish the game smoothly.

"[Enrique Gonzalez] was going to come in if it was a save situation, but that was pushing it a little bit," Nevin said. "To get those extra runs in the bottom of the eighth was just huge."

NOTES: Detroit's Carlos Guillen, who is on a rehab assignment with the Hens, left the game after striking out in the bottom of the first. "He felt a little soreness, so we decided to take him out and nip it in the bud before anything worse happened," Nevin said. "He's going to go with us to Indianapolis, and I expect he will be in the lineup [Monday]." ... LHP Brad Thomas also returned to Toledo to continue his rehab assignment. Nevin said Thomas will throw on the side before Monday's game at Indianapolis, and he will be evaluated after that. ... Clete Thomas had a stiff neck and was scratched from yesterday's original starting lineup. Nevin said he is day-to-day. ... Last night's attendance was 9,481 for the Hens' 12th sellout this season. It also was Toledo's third sellout in as many days.

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



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