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Even though the season is more than a month old, the Mud Hens hadn’t won three in a row.
And it took a crazy 12-11 win Wednesday over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Toledo to finally put together such a streak.
The Hens overcame an early 5-0 deficit and trailed 11-8 in the fifth inning, yet managed to get themselves in a position where Danny Dorn’s home run in the eighth gave them the victory.
“You have to find things to hang your hat on — and build off them,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve had a couple of two-game [winning] streaks and had things get away from us on that third day, and we very easily could have sunk back to that.”
It looked as if Wednesday morning’s contest, which was played before a sellout crowd of 9,054 fans, also would fall into that category as Toledo starter Shawn Hill struggled to get outs in the opening inning. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre had its first six hitters reach base and sent 10 men to the plate to build an early 5-0 lead.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens vs. RailRiders
But the Hens, who finished with 16 hits, were far from buried. In the second inning they roughed up former Mud Hen Chris Bootcheck, who came into the game with a league-leading 1.25 ERA, by sending 10 hitters to the plate and scoring seven runs.
What made that rally even more impressive was that Toledo loaded the bases with nobody out, then saw Bootcheck strike out Quintin Berry and Gustavo Nunez to nearly wiggle out of trouble. But Argenis Diaz lined a clutch two-run single to center, and Brandon Douglas tied the game with a three-run homer to left, his second home run in as many days.
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Jordan Lennerton drew a four-pitch walk after the Douglas homer, and Nick Castellanos followed with a long home run to straight-away center, his fourth homer of the year.
“Our pitching staff has done a great job all year, and [in this game] we were able to pick them up a little bit,” said Dorn, whose walk got the rally started. “When Diaz got that big hit, that helped everyone relax a little bit.
“That was big to help us get back into the game.”
But the Hens’ lead was short-lived as the RailRiders scored twice in the third. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre then took the lead in the fourth on a home run off the batter’s eye in straight-away center by Dan Johnson, but Toledo tied it in the bottom of that inning on a sacrifice fly by Dorn.
In the fifth, the RailRiders scored three times when Robbie Weinhardt issued two one-out walks, Zoilo Almonte singled, and Ronnier Mustelier greeted reliever Kenny Faulk with a two-run double.
But Faulk rebounded to strike out the next two batters, then pitched around an error and a walk to keep Scranton/Wilkes-Barre off the board in the sixth.
“The way the [fifth] inning started, then [Faulk] got out of trouble, that was a real momentum-shifter,” Nevin said. “Then we scored three in the next inning, and you felt as if something good was going to happen.”
In the sixth the Mud Hens managed to tie the game at 11-11 thanks to three singles, a sacrifice fly by Bryan Holaday and a game-tying, two-out double by Berry.
The score remained tied until the eighth, when with one out Dorn fell behind RailRiders reliever Jim Miller 0-2 before stroking a long fly ball that dropped into The Roost for his team-leading eighth home run of the season and second in three days.
“Maybe early in the count I was looking for a pitch to do damage, but falling behind 0-2 meant I just wanted to stay short [with my swing],” Dorn said. “Luckily I got a pitch I could handle, got the barrel [of the bat] on it — and it took off.
“I hit it, and then I stood for a second because I thought it might hook. But it stayed pretty true.”
Dorn’s homer made a winner of Toledo reliever Jess Todd, who pitched two scoreless innings. Bruce Rondon came on in the ninth and pitched around a hit batsman to collect his seventh save of the year.
“The job Kenny Faulk did, that Jess Todd did, and that [Bruce] Rondon did was phenomenal,” Nevin said. “It was a day where the ball was flying, so for them to come out and put four zeroes on the scoreboard at the end was big.”