The Toledo Mud Hens kept their playoff hopes afloat with a 5-1 win over one of the team’s they are chasing in the International League West Division, the Columbus Clippers, before a capacity crowd of 11,500 on Saturday night at Fifth Third Field.
Toledo first baseman Jason Krizan came up with a key, two-out, two-run home run to give the Hens a 5-1 cushion in the bottom of the third inning. Krizan’s fly ball just cleared the fence in left-center, scoring Dawel Lugo.
The Mud Hens turned three crucial double plays behind starting pitcher Jacob Turner (3-4), who earned the win after giving up one earned run on eight hits, while striking out five over seven strong innings.
Toledo (67-63) is now just 1½ games behind Columbus (69-62) and Indianapolis (69-62), who lost 4-2 to Louisville on Saturday, for first place in the West. The Hens are looking to earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
The Mud Hens now have nine games left in the regular season, and close the campaign with seven straight road games. The final two regular season home games are on Sunday and Monday against the Clippers. Toledo and Columbus meet six more times. Toledo also plays at Indy Tuesday through Thursday.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens 5, Clippers 1
VIDEO: Mud Hens 5, Clippers 1
What happened: Toledo fell behind instantly as Clippers first baseman Bobby Bradley came up with a two-out, RBI double to give Columbus a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Toledo quickly got the run back. Lead-off hitter Jacob Robson, who walked, scored on an RBI single up the middle by Dawel Lugo that tied it at 1. The Hens then took a 3-1 lead when center fielder Daz Cameron drove in Christin Stewart (walk) and Lugo (RBI single) with a double that tucked just inside the line in right. The clutch, sharply hit double came with two outs.
Turner (3-4) made his 14th start of the season, finishing with 101 pitches (65 strikes). The 27-year-old RHP had also given up just one earned run in 7 innings of work in his last outing on Aug. 19 against Rochester.
The Hens turned a sharp double play in the fourth inning. Second baseman Dawel Lugo speared a line drive and doubled off a Columbus runner at first. Toledo also turned a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth. The Clippers returned the favor with a double play of their own to get out of the bottom of the fifth as Toledo had runners on first and second with one out.
The Hens turned their third double play of the game behind Turner. Another 6-4-3 double play got Turner out of a base-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth and also protected Toledo’s 5-1 lead.
Turner then recorded a one-two-three seventh inning, striking out the first two batters, to maintain the Hens’ four-run edge.
Reliever Zac Reininger and Johnny Barbato closed it out for Toledo, each with one scoreless inning of work.
Game MVPs: Hens first baseman Jason Krizan and center fielder Daz Cameron each drove in two runs with clutch two-out hits. Krizan hit his eighth home run of the season and Cameron doubled in the bottom of the first.
He said it: “There’s a mindset you want to teach. I want to send a message that we are going to play aggressive. We’re not going to play timid.” — Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz.
Make a note of it: Designated hitter JaCoby Jones, who is on an injury rehab assignment from Detroit, got his second straight start for the Hens. Jones went 0 for 4 on Friday, and then 0 for 4 on Saturday with a fly out to center, a line out to right and two strikeouts.
Comings and goings: The Tigers have promoted RHP Spencer Turnbull up from Double-A Erie to Toledo. This is the first stop at Triple-A for Turnbull, who was a second-round selection of the Tigers in 2014 out of the University of Alabama. Spencer has spent the vast majority of this season with the SeaWolves, where he’s posted a 4–7 record with a 4.47 ERA in 98.2 innings, while striking out 105.
A look ahead: The crucial four-game home series continues on Sunday. LHP Daniel Norris, who is on a rehab assignment from Detroit, will start for Toledo. His pitch count will be around 80. Mitch Talbot (4-5, 2.78) will start for Columbus.
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