THE BLADE/LISA BERNHEIM Enlarge | Buy This Photo
All seemed lost when the Mud Hens fell behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 6-1 in the sixth inning Sunday night.
The only place in Fifth Third Field where hope still existed was in the Mud Hens' dugout.
"The feeling in the dugout was that something was going to happen," Toledo's Jeff Salazar said. "Sure enough, it did."
Salazar's home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth tied the contest at 6-6, and Danny Worth's bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the 11th gave the Hens a 7-6 victory.
"That was exciting," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "That's the way the past couple of weeks have gone, with someone different coming up with a big hit.
"A lot of people will point to Salazar's home run as the big hit, but a lot of guys played key roles in a big rally -- and a team win."
The early innings belonged to the Yankees, who scored single runs in the first, third, fourth, and fifth off Toledo starter Andy Oliver, then a pair of runs off reliever Charlie Furbush in the sixth.
But the Mud Hens began their comeback in the bottom of the sixth by scoring three times to cut the deficit to 6-4.
"When you answer back with one run, it gives you confidence," Salazar said. "We knew we could chip away and bounce back.
"There never was a sense of doubt in the dugout. We felt that, given the right opportunity, we would take advantage of it."
Ryan Strieby got the sixth-inning rally started with a single, then came around to score on a double by Salazar. One out later Guez singled Sazalar to third, and Thomas followed with an RBI single to right.
Guez raced to third on the hit by Thomas, and a wild throw by Brandon Laird in right bounced away from Yankees third baseman Mike Lamb, allowing Guez to score.
"We had good momentum all game," Worth said. "I just knew we were going to get within striking distance."
As the Mud Hens bullpen kept the Yankees in check -- Matt Hoffman struck out four in two scoreless innings, and Ryan Perry fanned a pair in three scoreless frames -- Toledo kept chipping away at the deficit with a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Salazar.
But the Hens were down to their final out when Salazar slammed a 3-1 pitch by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Logan Kensing off the railing of the right-field fence for a game-tying homer.
"I was just trying to get on base and cause trouble. You hope he makes a mistake in the zone, and he challenged me with a fastball," Salazar said.
"I cheated a little bit to try to barrel up his fastball. I thought I hit it well enough to get it out, but that corner plays tricks."
Then in the 11th Diaz singled and moved to third on a two-out single by Strieby before the Yankees loaded the bases by walking Salazar.
Worth drew a walk from Eric Wordekemper to force home Diaz with the winning run.
"You're looking first for a good pitch to hit, and you know he doesn't want to get behind so he's going to come at you early," Worth said. "I fouled the first pitch off, and then I worked the count to 3-1.
"I still debated whether I would take a pitch or swing at 3-1 when the pitcher went into his wind-up, but I got ready to go -- and it was a high pitch."
NOTE: The Mud Hens' Furbush, who started for Toledo Thursday, threw an inning in relief of Oliver at the request of the Tigers. Nevin said after the game that Fu-Te Ni will start Tuesday instead of the scheduled starter, Furbush.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481