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Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski and former manager Jim Leyland were behind home plate at Fifth Third Field Tuesday night to watch the Mud Hens face Durham.
Several players took advantage of the opportunity to get their attention, putting on a show to lead Toledo to a 12-4 win.
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“If you’re going to play in the big leagues, you’re going to play in front of David,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said with a smile.
“You can see how guys handle that situation.”
The Hens hammered out 10 hits and took advantage of six Durham walks and two hit batsmen to score five times in the first and three more times in the second on the way to the team’s fifth win in the last seven games.
Toledo’s Eugenio Suarez shone brightest. He nearly hit for the cycle, homering in the first inning before lining a double into the left-field corner as part of a 3-for-4 night.
He also stole a page from Derek Jeter’s defensive playbook by grabbing a hard grounder in the hole at shortstop and making a jump-throw to first to retire a Bull to lead off the sixth.
“He jumped that one [fastball] and put it on the street,” Parrish said of the Suarez home run. “He had good at-bats all night: he took the ball well to right-center, and hit the ball hard with the double.
“And he made a great play defensively. What else can you say?”
Ezequiel Carrera also had a pair of hits, including a triple to get the five-run first inning rolling, while Luis Exposito’s two-hit night included an opposite-field two-run homer in the sixth.
Despite the offensive outburst, the Hens had some anxious moments early because Robbie Ray struggled in his first start since his return from Detroit. Ray walked four and wasn’t able to survive the fourth after giving up a home run, a double, and an RBI single.
“He was out of sync completely,” Parrish said of Ray. “He threw some fastballs that, when they came in, I thought they were change-ups.
“He wasn’t working where the fastball was popping and the ball was moving downhill. We see that sometimes when a guy comes back down here.”
Chad Smith came on in the fourth and got two outs to end a Durham threat, then threw a scoreless fifth to earn the win.
He also featured a 94 mile-per-hour sinker that certainly caught Parrish’s eye.
“Even though we had scored a lot of runs, it was shaky because of the way we were pitching,” Parrish said.
“Smith came in and threw strikes and curtailed their momentum.”
After Durham scored twice in the sixth off Mike Belfiore, Jose Ortega threw three scoreless, hitless innings with two strikeouts to earn his first save.
“This is the third outing in a row where he has pitched well,” Parrish said of Ortega.
“For him to pitch well, it’s about controlling his emotions and trusting that his stuff is good enough.”