Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin shakes hands with Ryan Strieby as he rounds 3rd base. Strieby hit a home-run in the 1st inning against Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
If Andy Oliver, Ryan Strieby, and Brad Eldred continue to play as they did in a 5-3 win Monday over Columbus, the Mud Hens are going to have a very successful season.
Oliver kept the Clippers off the board for six innings at Fifth Third Field, while Strieby and Eldred both hammered home runs to give Toledo its eighth win in the last nine games.
The Mud Hens improved to 12-6 on the season, which is tied with Gwinnett for the second-best record in the International League, trailing only 14-5 Pawtucket.
Strieby, the Hens' third hitter, and Eldred, the fourth batter, combined for three extra-base hits, three RBIs and four runs scored to carry the offense.
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"It seems like we talk about those two guys every night, but when those guys are rolling, streaks happen, you play well," Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "It's not always going to be them, but we'll have other guys who get hot when they are not hitting, and we'll win games that way, too.
"But right now the big boys are really swinging it."
Strieby got the Mud Hens rolling with a home run in the first, his third of the year, and Eric Patterson's sacrifice fly scored Justin Henry in the third.
Eldred led off the fourth with a ground-rule double and scored on a sacrifice fly, and in the sixth Strieby opened the frame with a walk and scored on a long home run to center by Eldred, his IL-leading ninth of the year.
"I've felt good ever since spring training," said Strieby, who is now batting .278 with 17 RBIs. "Each day is a new opportunity, and I just feel a little more relaxed and completely healthy this year."
While Strieby led the Hens in home runs (19) and RBIs (76) last season, he suffered the lingering effects of a wrist injury that cost him much of the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
"It was a little bit [in my mind]," Strieby said of the injury. "I don't want to use it as an excuse, but it feels a little stronger this year.
"I don't worry about it. I don't have to limit my swings. I just do my work and don't think twice about it."
While Strieby and Eldred were providing the offense, Oliver kept the Clippers off-balance by allowing just six base runners in the first six innings. The 24-year-old lefty, who came into the contest with a 6.28 ERA and 16 walks in 14? innings, issued just three free passes until walking the first two batters in the seventh.
"I felt I could control my change-up and slider more, so I went with them," said Oliver, who gave up just two hits and struck out seven. "There were times [my fastball command] was good, and some times it wasn't.
"I felt I was rushing a little bit, opening up and leaving [the ball] arm side away. That's something I'm going to have to continue to work on, recognize when I'm doing it and correct it right away."
After those two walks, Matt Hoffman struggled to put out the fire, giving up a single, a sacrifice fly and a walk along with an error that brought home two runs. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Brayan Villarreal came on and struck out Chad Huffman and Matt LaPorta to douse the threat.
"He came in and rushed a little bit, and that resulted in a wild pitch [that scored a run]," Nevin said of Villarreal. "But then he got the two big strikeouts. That's why you bring him into that spot."
Toledo travels to Columbus today to begin a two-game series with the Clippers, with first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
NOTES: Before the game the Mud Hens added LHP Daniel Schlereth to the roster and optioned LHP Shawn Teufel to Hi-A Lakeland. … The crowd announced at 3,871 for the contest was the seventh-smallest crowd in Fifth Third Field history. Three of the crowds smaller than Monday night's gathering have occurred this year.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.
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