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Published: Tuesday, 7/31/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Win, sleep, win for Mud Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo's Drew Smyly delivers a pitch to Louisville's Chris Valaika. Smyly allowed two hits in three scoreless innings, striking out five. Toledo's Drew Smyly delivers a pitch to Louisville's Chris Valaika. Smyly allowed two hits in three scoreless innings, striking out five.
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The Mud Hens got a spark from a variety of sources to claim a 7-3 victory over Louisville at Fifth Third Field on Tuesday afternoon.

One source came just 12 hours earlier, as Toledo rode the wave from a dramatic extra-inning victory late Monday night to win for the second straight day. That victory provided another boost when the Bats scratched Tuesday's scheduled starter Todd Redmond, meaning a Louisville bullpen that saw seven pitchers take the mound the previous night had more work 13 hours later.

Photo gallery: 7-31: Mud Hens vs. Louisville

"We caught a little bit of a break when their [scheduled] starter got bumped," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "We knew it would be a complete bullpen game, so we wanted to elevate pitch counts, make their guys work and get deep into their bullpen.

"We also took good at-bats, we didn't swing at bad pitches, and we made them work. And it paid off."

Toledo scored seven times by taking advantage of nine hits, four walks and a pair of Louisville errors. Much of the production came from two players sharpening their skills here for a potential return to Detroit -- Andy Dirks and Danny Worth.

Dirks finished 2 for 4 with a single in the three-run fourth and a solo home run, his second with the Hens, to lead off the seventh.

"I'm starting to get more at-bats and seeing the ball better," said Dirks, who was placed on the Tigers' disabled list June 3 with right Achilles tendinitis. "I'm just trying to have some fun and win some games.

"I'm getting back to what I like to do. Instead of worrying about how [the Achilles] is feeling, I can get out there and just play and think about baseball."

Dirks, who had been hitless in his previous 16 at-bats entering the game, is now batting .182 in nine games with the Hens with a pair of home runs and four RBIs.

"The timing is coming back," he said. "Sometimes it takes 40 or 50 at-bats. I felt good, so now I hope to keep it rolling into the next game I play."

Worth, who has been optioned by the Tigers to Toledo four different times this season, seems to be rounding back into form following his latest demotion, which came July 23. After hitting just .176 in his first five games back with the Hens, Worth has hit .333 in his last four.

On Tuesday, he had perhaps the biggest hit of the game -- a three-run homer in the third inning -- and finished with a career-high five RBIs.

"My swing felt good," Worth said. "The homer came on a good pitch to hit, and I got into a good position to hit it.

"I got my body in balance and boom! It went."

While Worth obviously would rather be playing with Detroit, he said he tries to take advantage of his time in Toledo.

"It's good to get consistent at-bats and work on stuff," he said. "[Hitting coach Leon] 'Bull' [Durham] sees things, and he'll tell me so I can adjust.

"Hitters have to make adjustments every day, every at-bat, every pitch."

The production of Dirks and Worth, along with a two-hit, three-run effort by Justin Henry, was more than enough offense thanks to starter Drew Smyly and the Mud Hens bullpen.

Smyly, who made his first start for Toledo since he was optioned here by Detroit, allowed two hits in three scoreless innings. He did walk two but also struck out five and showed no signs of injury in just his fifth appearance since June 10.

"My No. 1 concern was making sure my side felt good, and it did -- it didn't bother me," said Smyly, who had problems with a blister before the All-Star break and was placed on the disabled list shortly after the break because of a right intercostal strain. "I was a little wild throughout the game, trying to get a feel back.

"But everything felt good, so it was a good day."

Smyly threw 34 of his 59 pitches for strikes and seemed to command the ball better after the first, when he walked two Louisville hitters and threw just 12 of 23 pitches for strikes.

"I was all over the place," Smyly admitted. "I wasn't able to 'spot' [the ball] like I wanted to. But that's about getting innings and working back into it.

"I thought it got better during the game, and hopefully in the next start I'll be back to normal."

The Toledo bullpen covered the final six innings and allowed just three runs, only one of which was earned because of three errors by the Hens. Luke Putkonen allowed seven hits and two unearned runs in 2⅔ innings, while Zach Miner picked up the win with 2⅓ innings of two-hit ball, giving up only a home run to Chris Valaika in the eighth. Chris Bootcheck had two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth to finish the win.

NOTES: Toledo's back-to-back wins gives the Hens a 44-68 record, one game better than Louisville. … Durham celebrated his 55th birthday Tuesday. … The crowd of 9,577 was the Mud Hens' 21st sellout this season, and eighth consecutive.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.



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