The Mud Hens’ Gustavo Nunez scoots back safely to second base for a double as Louisville’s Neftali Soto is late with the tag.
All through the Mud Hens’ 1-7 start, Toledo manager Phil Nevin preached patience.
Saturday Nevin’s patience was rewarded as the Hens posted a season-high 14 hits in an 8-0 victory over Louisville at Fifth Third Field.
“I’ve said since we’ve been home that I’m not worried about this offense,” Nevin said. “I know they are going to hit. There’s too much history [of hitting] in this group. …
“And that’s starting to show.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens pound Bats
The Hens’ 14-hit attack included four doubles and a triple and also took advantage of three walks to score single runs in the first and third as well as a pair of runs in the sixth. In the eighth Toledo sent nine batters to the plate and scored four times to put its second win in a row on ice.
“We all knew we would break out of it,” said Quintin Berry, who had three hits and two RBIs. “And once we did, it was like a snowball rolling down a hill.”
In the first inning it looked as if the Louisville offense would be the one to break out as speedster Billy Hamilton beat out a bunt single and stole second before Mud Hens starter Jose Alvarez walked Kristopher Negron. Alvarez coaxed Henry Rodriguez to hit a grounder back up the middle that Toledo turned into a double play, and another groundout snuffed the rally.
In the second, Louisville again got its first two hitters on, but Alvarez got a strikeout, a soft groundout, and a fly ball to keep the Bats from scoring.
“It’s not like they hit him around,” Nevin said of Alvarez. “Jose made some pitches [to get out of it]. …
“Same thing in the second — he made some pitches when they had traffic out there. From there that carried through to the rest of his game.”
After the second inning, Alvarez allowed just one batter to reach base in the next four innings, and he erased that baserunner with a double play.
“I tried to concentrate, make my pitches and get out of the inning,” said Alvarez, who finished with seven strikeouts. “I tried to stay down in the [strike] zone and get ahead of the hitters, and I thought that was the key. I thought I had better location of my pitches and mixed the pitches well. And I got a little confidence there.”
Evan Reed followed with two hitless innings, and Jess Todd pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to complete the shutout.
Meanwhile the Toledo offense was giving Alvarez and the bullpen some breathing room. In the first, Gustavo Nunez drew a walk, took second on a groundout, stole third and scored on a single by Nick Castellanos. Nunez again accounted for a run in the third when he and Berry posted back-to-back doubles.
In the sixth, Danny Dorn’s sacrifice fly scored Jordan Lennerton and John Lindsey scored on a passed ball.
Toledo collected five hits to score four times in the ninth. Lennerton opened with a triple off Bats reliever Mark Prior, and one out later he scored on a single by pinch-hitter Ben Guez.
A walk and a single loaded the bases with two outs for Nunez, who brought home two runs with a single, and Berry capped the rally with an RBI single.
“Nunez is doing a great job in the leadoff spot,” said Berry, who dropped to second in the batting order for the last two games. “Phil dropping me down into the second spot took a little pressure off me. I was trying to do too much in the leadoff spot, and I wasn’t getting the job done. For some reason, I felt more comfortable and more relaxed in the ‘two’ spot. It’s worked well for me lately.”
Nunez and Berry each had three hits and two RBIs. Adding two hits from Castellanos and two from Lennerton meant the top four in the batting order combined to go 10-for-28 (.357) with four runs scored and five RBIs.
NOTES: Former Mud Hen Mike Hessman was in the original lineup but was scratched because of soreness in his left wrist. … Toledo’s Kevin Russo continues to be day-to-day because of a hip injury.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org,419-724-6481 or onTwitter @jwagnerblade.