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The Mud Hens’ first walk-off win of the season came Friday night when they beat Indianapolis 7-6 in 11 innings at Fifth Third Field.
The hope is that the win might be a catalyst to jump-start the Hens, who are just 4-8 at home and are near the bottom of the International League West Division standings.
“We did a lot of crazy stuff along the way,” Toledo manager Larry Parrish admitted. “But you can laugh about it and then fix it because we just kept grinding.
“This should be a pick-me-up win.”
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Luis Exposito’s base hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th brought home the winning run — and started a scrum behind first base with Exposito in the middle.
“This team is a really resilient team,” Exposito said. “We came together as a team and believed in one another, and we got it done.”
It looked as if Toledo would win a laugher after the Hens scored four times in the second inning off Indianapolis starter Jake Brigham.
Mike Hessman got things rolling with a long home run to left, his fourth this season. Trevor Crowe followed with a single, and one out later he took second on a walk to Exposito.
Brigham threw wildly to second trying to pick off Crowe, and when the ball rolled into center Crowe was able to score. Daniel Fields was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. Ezequiel Carrera capped the rally when he lined a two-run single to center.
But Toledo starter Duane Below, who breezed through the first three innings, struggled with his command in the fourth. He walked three Indians and was fortunate to pick Gregory Polanco off first base so that Matt Hague’s long home run to left-center was good for only three runs.
In the fifth, Below gave up back-to-back RBI doubles to Polanco and Andrew Lambo to take a 5-4 lead, but the Hens tied the game in the bottom of that inning on a run-scoring two-out single by Crowe.
The Mud Hens bullpen saw Casey Crosby throw two scoreless innings and Jose Ortega one, and the Hens carried a 6-5 lead into the ninth after scoring an unearned run in the seventh.
The run came home on a two-out throwing error by Indianapolis shortstop Michael Martinez.
“I thought our pitching was good,” Parrish said. “I thought Ortega threw really well.”
But in the ninth, Toledo closer Kevin Whelan allowed a check-swing double by Jaff Decker, then a run-scoring double by Nevin Ashley that tied the contest.
“Whelan said he figured out that he [was gripping] his splitter too deep in his hand, and it was coming out as a strike,” Parrish said. “The next inning he got it out further on his fingers, and it was dipping out of the zone better.”
A terrific throw by Ben Guez kept the game tied at 6. With pinch-runner Blake Davis on second and none out, Chase d’Arnaud hit a fly ball down the right-field line that Guez caught on the run; he then threw to third base on the fly and the throw easily beat Davis to the base for a rally-killing double play.
“That was an unbelievable throw,” Parrish said. “He threw it from the right-field corner on the fly — and on the money.”
That set the stage for the Hens’ game-winning rally in the 11th. Singles by Hernan Perez and Tyler Collins preceded a long flyout to center by Hessman that put runners on second and third with one out.
Indianapolis intentionally walked Crowe, and after Jordan Lennerton struck out, Exposito lined the game-winning hit.
NOTES: Toledo’s Daniel Fields was hit on the left hand by a pitch in the second inning. X-rays on the hand were negative for a break, and Parrish said his status is day-to-day. … Lennerton received his Gold Glove for being the best defensive first baseman in minor-league baseball before the contest.