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Published: Monday, 8/13/2012

Hens stumble early, rally to drop Bulls

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jerad Head, Mud Hens left fielder, gets all of an eighth-inning pitch which he stretched into a double. Head was 2 for 3 at the plate. Jerad Head, Mud Hens left fielder, gets all of an eighth-inning pitch which he stretched into a double. Head was 2 for 3 at the plate.
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It only took six batters for the Mud Hens to find themselves trailing Durham 3-0 Sunday night.

But the Hens bounced back from that early deficit quickly to claim a 4-3 victory over the Bulls, Toledo's fifth win in a row.

"We're playing better baseball right now," Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. "We've added some personnel, and that has made a difference in the clubhouse. And that's showing up on the field.

PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens vs. Durham, 8-12.

"Things like [a winning streak] can be contagious. You get a good feeling out there, and we have that right now. It would be nice to finish this season on a good note."

Hens starter Thad Weber struggled at the start, giving up a double to Rich Thompson and a RBI-single to Stephen Vogt just four pitches in. Weber threw a wild pitch that moved to Vogt to second, where he scored on a single by Chris Gimenez and an error by Ben Guez in right.

Leslie Anderson singled Gimenez to second, and a flyout followed by a sacrifice fly by Brooks Conrad brought home the third run.

"[The trouble] started with a terrible 0-2 pitch to Thompson, and it rolled from there," Weber said. "There weren't a lot of hard-hit balls, but that's how it is sometimes. I made some good pitches that they put good swings on them."

But in the bottom of the first Durham starter Chris Archer gave up a single to Justin Henry and walked Jerad Head to bring Don Kelly to the plate with two on and none out.

"He had just walked Jerad on four pitches, so I wanted to make him throw at least one strike," Kelly said. "And then he gave me a change-up to hit."

Kelly didn't miss it, slamming the ball well over the fence in right for a three-run homer, his first with the Hens, that tied the contest.

"That was a huge hit," Weber said. "After giving up a three-spot in the first, his home run gave everyone a jolt. We got a sense that it was a new game."

Weber kept the Bulls off the scoreboard after the first, allowing just two hits over the next six innings and pitching around potential trouble.

"[Pitching coach] A.J. [Sager] saw something mechanical after the first inning -- I wasn't getting over the rubber as much as I need to, and that's something I've battled all year," Weber said. "I think from then on I was better mechanically, and I thought my stuff was more crisp."

Kelly's home run was important, but so too was Weber's ability to keep Durham off the scoreboard after the three-run first inning.

"He stayed with his game plan and went after their hitters," Nevin said of Weber. "You can get in trouble if you get hit early and go away from your game plan, but he stuck with it and was effective."

Toledo scored the winning run in the fourth when, with two outs and none on, Henry singled and then scored on a double by Head.

Jose Ortega retired the final six Bulls to claim his first save, extending the Hens' win streak to five, one shy of the team's season high.

"It's been tough the last few months, because we either can't score when we pitch well or we get some runs but we don't pitch well," Weber said. "To win five in a row is good for us.

"Everyone wants to finish strong, so hopefully we take this streak and go strong to the end of the year."

NOTES: Two Toledo pitchers were suspended by the International League for their part in a fracas Saturday. RHP Bruce Rondon was suspended for five games after his ejection for throwing behind Will Rhymes, and LHP Drew Smyly was suspended for three games after his ejection for hitting Nevin Ashley. Smyly's suspension begins on Tuesday, which will force him to miss his scheduled start Thursday. … The crowd of 8,987 was the Mud Hens' 27th sellout this season and 15th consecutive sellout.

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



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