The Mud Hens’ Andy Dirks, left, is congratulated by Will Rhymes after hitting a home run in the fifth inning at Fifth Third Field.
Mud Hens starter Jacob Turner made his first start in 10 days count, pitching Toledo to a 9-2 victory over Louisville at Fifth Third Field Sunday night.
Turner overcame some early struggles to limit the Bats to five hits and a pair of runs in six innings. The 20-year-old right-hander, considered the best prospect in the Tigers' organization, finished with eight strikeouts to earn his first Triple-A victory.
"I thought I threw pretty well," Turner said. "It took me a few innings to get into a groove, but once I got into a groove I was able to get ahead of hitters and throw some strikes.
"Every time you go out there it takes a little while to find that groove, that feeling of what feels right for that day. I found it around the third inning, and I felt I did pretty well after that."
Turner, who had not pitched since facing the Bats in his Triple-A debut on Aug. 11, gave up a run in the first when Juan Francisco doubled with two outs, then came home on a single by Denis Phipps. Jeremy Hermida singled Phipps to second, but Turner escaped further damage with a groundout.
"I was getting the ball over the plate, but I wasn't putting the ball right where I wanted it," Turner said of his 24-pitch first inning. "They got the three hits in the first inning, but they have some pretty good hitters."
In the fourth Hermida lined a triple to the deepest part of center, then came home on a two-out single by Danny Dorn for Louisville's final hit off Turner.
Turner seemed to get sharper as the game progressed, retiring the last seven hitters he faced. He threw first-pitch strikes to the last eight hitters he faced and 17-of-23 overall. He didn't walk a batter and reached a three-ball count to just three Louisville hitters.
"In the first inning I think you might have seen a little [rust] from him not having pitched in 10 days, but after that I thought he was pretty good," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said of Turner. "In the fourth inning [Hermida] hit the ball hard to center, but they got a jam-shot to left-center for the run.
"Those kinds of hits and those kinds of runs are going to happen to any pitcher. I really like what I saw from Jacob."
Meanwhile the Mud Hens took a little time to get rolling offensively off Bats starter Chad Reineke, an Ayersville High School graduate. Toledo scored a run in the third when Danny Worth walked, raced to third on a hit-and-run single by Omir Santos, and scored on a single by Andy Dirks.
Toledo took the lead for good with three runs in the fifth. Jeff Salazar walked and stole second, took third on a flyout by Worth, and scored on a single by Santos. Dirks then launched a 2-1 pitch from Reineke off the buildings behind the right-field fence for his seventh home run of the year.
"He's a little bit of an igniter," Nevin said of Dirks, who finished with three hits and three RBIs. "That's no disrespect to Will Rhymes -- actually, I think Rhymes is going to thrive in the second spot in the order between Dirks and Timo Perez.
"I've always liked having a guy who can pop a [home run] leading off the game. It's only 1-0, but it can give a team a shot in the arm. We'll try this for a little while and see how it goes."
The Hens broke the game open with a five-run seventh that included a sacrifice fly by Perez, an RBI double by Ben Guez, a run-scoring single by Scott Thorman and a two-run triple by Salazar that capped the rally.
Santos also joined Dirks with three hits and scored twice, while Thorman added a pair of singles.
NOTES: Hermida and Louisville manager Rick Sweet both were ejected for arguing a swing on a third strike that ended the sixth. ... The Mud Hens will add LHP Ramon Garcia to the roster Wednesday, and Garcia will start that night when Toledo returns home to start a four-game series with Buffalo. ... Sunday night's crowd of 10,300 was the Mud Hens' 26th sellout this season and the 294th in the 10-year history of Fifth Third Field.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.