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Derek Hankins didn’t try to fool anyone Thursday night.
The Mud Hens starter allowed Scranton/Wilkes-Barre batters to hit the ball. And they did — often to Hankins’ teammates — and the result was a 4-1 Toledo victory.
Hankins didn’t get many swings-and-misses, but he allowed just six hits and one walk in shutting out the RailRiders until the seventh. His first Triple-A win of the season also was Toledo’s fourth in a row, a season high.
“I knew before the game that the bullpen was a little bit cashed,” Hankins admitted. “So the gameplan from the get-go was to get outs early.
“I wanted them to put the ball in play quickly — get them in, get them out — to try and give our bullpen a little break.”
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Mission accomplished for Hankins, who needed fewer than 10 pitches to get three outs in four of the six innings he pitched.
Of the 52 strikes he threw, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hitters swung and missed only four times. But they also managed just six hits while making 19 outs, eight harmless fly-ball outs, five groundouts, and four popouts.
“They came out hacking, and that benefited me,” he said. “I just let them put the ball in play and let the defense work behind me.
“The thing about pitching is that you want to get into a rhythm. And if they don’t do anything to break your rhythm, you’ll stay in rhythm.
“They didn’t do anything to screw up my rhythm.”
The only spot of trouble Hankins faced in the first six innings came in the second, when a single and an error put runners on first and third with only one out. But Hankins struck out Melky Mesa and Jeff Farnham — his only two strikeouts in the contest — to escape unscathed.
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Was Hankins looking for strikeouts in that situation?
“Not really,” he said. “I tried to put the ball exactly where it needed to be put.
“I threw a couple of two-seamers ‘in’ that they swung over the top of. I was locating the ball pretty well.
“In the seventh inning I threw Mesa the exact same pitch – and he hit it over the fence.”
Hankins gave up Mesa’s home run to lead off the seventh and also allowed two singles, but Brayan Villarreal got the final two outs to end the inning. In the eighth Villarreal gave up a single and two walks but got a double play to avoid allowing any runs.
Bruce Rondon got Scranton/Wilkes-Barre out in the ninth to claim his eighth save of the season.
Meanwhile the Mud Hens offense continued to percolate, scoring single runs in the second, third, fifth, and seventh innings.
Toledo pounded out 13 hits, including 12 in 6 2/3 innings against former major leaguer Chien-Ming Wang. It marks just the second time this season the Hens have reached double-digits in hits in three straight games.
“We made three outs on the basepaths, and you don’t like to see that,”Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “But we also got some big hits and got some runners in.
“We’ve taken better at-bats [lately]. A lot of them are coming with runners on base because we’re getting more runners on base.”
Argenis Diaz had three hits and a walk in four plate appearances, scoring twice, to spark the offense. Four other Mud Hens — Ramon Cabrera, Jordan Lennerton, Nick Castellanos, and Kevin Russo — each had a pair of hits.
NOTES: Brennan Boesch joined the RailRiders Thursday and went 0-for-5 in the contest. He was optioned to Triple-A by the Yankees Monday. … Toledo placed 2B Brandon Douglas on the disabled list with a shin contusion. At this point no move has been made to fill his spot on the roster.