Toledo’s 12-2 victory against Rochester was everything the Mud Hens could have wanted.
The offense pounded out season highs in runs, hits (16), and extra-base hits (five) on Thursday, and a six-run uprising in the sixth also was a season’s best.
Meanwhile, starter Jose Alvarez also was impressive, notching a career-high 11 strikeouts while giving up just six hits and a walk in seven strong innings, while the defense turned a pair of nifty double plays.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens bats come alive in win
Most important, there was no drama as the Hens claimed just their second win in the last seven days.
“It was good for our hearts to get a lead early, and to have a game where we felt [a win] was in our grasp,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin joked. “I liked that we jumped on them and kept them down.”
Things didn’t start out well for Alvarez. Rochester’s Chris Colabello lined a two-out double to score Chris Herrmann in the first inning.
“[Alvarez] made a poor decision on a pitch — not a bad pitch, but a bad choice on a pitch — on the pitch to Colabello in the first inning,” Nevin said. “Colabello likes the fastball away, so throwing him the fastball away on the first pitch wasn’t a good selection.
“But from that point on he really locked in on some things. He threw strikes, and he threw quality strikes. He knows how to pitch.”
Alvarez pitched around a walk in the second and a single in the third before finding his groove in the fourth. He struck out seven of the nine hitters he faced in the middle three innings.
“When the team makes some runs for you, you can relax a little,” Alvarez said. “When the score is 1-0, you have to keep the score at 1-0. They were swinging at almost everything, so I just tried to make good pitches.”
The Mud Hens got their offense rolling in the third inning thanks to a triple by Brandon Douglas and a run-scoring groundout by Ramon Cabrera. Toledo took the lead in the fourth on an RBI double by Kevin Russo and a safety squeeze by Douglas, then got a three-run homer from Danny Dorn in the fifth inning.
Then the Hens broke the game open by sending 11 batters to the plate in the sixth and scoring six times, with the big blows coming on a two-run double by Nick Castellanos and a run-scoring single high off the wall in left-center by Russo.
Russo, who came into the game batting .117, went 4 for 5 and raised his season’s batting average 41 points.
“We looked at some film from last year, when I played against the Mud Hens, and compared it [to this year],” Russo said. “There were a few little mechanical adjustments, because my swing is always going to be my swing.
“But the mental adjustment was probably the biggest thing: I was feeling comfortable, feeling confident.”
Besides Russo’s four-hit night, Castellanos and Douglas each had three hits, and every Hens starter except Cabrera and Quintin Berry had at least one hit.
Now the trick is to use the momentum from Thursday’s victory to generate more wins.
“We have to keep doing this,” Nevin said. “We’re not going to score 12 runs every night, but we need to keep taking quality at-bats and give ourselves a better chance to win.”
NOTES: Tigers reliever Phil Coke pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up a hit but throwing just eight pitches to get three outs. Barring no setbacks, Coke should be available to come off Detroit’s disabled list Saturday. … Defensively, Castellanos was replaced by Ben Guez in the top of the eighth inning. Castellanos had played every inning of every game up to that point.
Contact John Wagner at:
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