Brandon Douglas, second from left, is congratulated by Ben Guez, left, Casey Crosby, and Hernan Perez after he singled to center to plate the winning run for the Hens in the bottom of the ninth. BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Brandon Douglas had to take one for the team on Monday.
“Someone was punching me in the ribs — I don’t know who it was,” Douglas said when asked about a postgame celebration following the Mud Hens’ 2-1 win over Rochester at Fifth Third Field.
Douglas singled home Ben Guez with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving Toledo its first sweep of a four-game home series in nearly two years.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens get walk-off win
With the score tied 1-1, Guez started the rally by dumping a blooper into right field for a double. Troy Hanzawa sacrificed Guez to third, and Hanzawa was safe at first when Red Wings pitcher Aaron Thompson mishandled the bunt.
One out later, Douglas lined the first pitch he saw from Thompson back up the middle for the hit that gave the Hens their second walk-off win this season.
“My first at-bats weren’t the best, so going up there I was thinking that I needed to find a pitch to hit — and hit it hard,” Douglas said. “He threw a fastball that he left up in the zone, and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The hit by Douglas was a successful ending to a frustrating day at the plate for Toledo. The Mud Hens collected nine hits and four walks but were just 1-for-9 when batting with runners in scoring position before the Douglas single, and they finished with 11 left on base.
The only other run the Hens produced came in the fourth, when James McCann walked with one out and then came around to score on a double into the right-field corner by Jordan Lennerton.
But Toledo was in a position to win thanks to a strong start by left-hander Duane Below, who allowed just five hits and two walks in seven innings.
“I think my mechanics are finally starting to come together,” said Below, who fanned five and lowered his ERA to 3.08 in seven starts. “At the start [of this season] I was fighting myself, and my delivery was off.”
Below gave up leadoff doubles to Rochester batters in four different innings, but he pitched through the first three without allowing a run.
“The biggest thing is to get ahead of the next hitter,” Below said of his plan in that situation. “You’re also trying to get [the batter] to hit the ball on the left side of the infield to try and keep the guy at second base. I tried to attack them and put the pressure on them.”
The Red Wings’ only run came in the eighth after Below gave up a double to Eric Fryer and walked Eric Farris. Toledo newcomer Corey Knebel relieved Below and, following a sacrifice by James Beresford, hit Deibinson Romero on the helmet with a breaking ball to load the bases with one out.
Oswaldo Arcia’s long fly to right resulted in a sacrifice fly before Knebel got former Hen Wilkin Ramirez to fly out to end the threat.
Pat McCoy, who retired Rochester in order in the ninth, claimed the victory as he, Knebel, and Below did their part to lower the Hens’ season ERA from 4.37 to start this homestand to its current level of 4.02.
And Douglas said it’s no coincidence Toledo has won six of its last seven games.
“Our pitching has had a [great] deal to do with our success,” he said. “The starters have gone deep into games, and the bullpen guys have been coming in and doing a great job.”
NOTES: 3B Mike Hessman was not in the lineup after spraining his ankle on Sunday. His status is day-to-day. … Hanzawa officially was added to the Toledo roster before the game. He was signed by Detroit as a minor league free agent after he was released by Lehigh Valley. … The Hens’ current four-game win streak is the longest since a seven-game win streak in June of last season. … Monday’s 10:30 a.m. scheduled start, which was delayed for 44 minutes by rain, was the first of three School Celebration Days this season. The Hens drew 9,528 fans for the team’s third sellout of the year.