Toledo Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish.
Houdini performed his most mystifying magic with smoke, mirrors, and sleight-of-hand.
Lately the Mud Hens have pulled a few rabbits out of their hats, including a 3-2 victory over Charlotte at Fifth Third Field Friday.
Toledo was outhit 9-3, yet managed to overcome 16 strikeouts to scratch out its seventh win in the last 10 games.
Hens manager Larry Parrish said his team won because it did a good job of executing “the little things.”
“Right now we’re playing the game right,” he said. “We only got three hits, but we played hard and took advantage of everything we got.”
The best example of that was Toledo’s game-winning rally in the sixth. With the score tied at 1-1, Hernan Perez doubled, then took third on a wild pitch.
Eugenio Suarez fell behind 0-2, but managed to work Charlotte starter Eric Surkamp for a nine-pitch walk. After Mike Hessman lined out sharply to third, Suarez stole second before James McCann hit a come-backer to the mound.
Perez managed to make Surkamp hesitate before throwing to first, and when he did the pitcher threw wildly. The ball bounced into the stands, allowing both Perez and Suarez to score.
“Perez did a good job at third base, looking for an opportunity to score,” Parrish said. “When their pitcher got the ball, [Perez] broke for home and their guy saw him. So [Surkamp] did a double-take. The other thing was McCann did a good job of running the ball out. By the time [the pitcher] saw him, he realized he had to throw quickly — and he threw wildly.
“And that was the ball game.”
Toledo’s other run came in the fourth, when Hessman slammed Surkamp’s first pitch off the scoreboard in left for his 14th home run of the season. That hit helped Hessman tie the International League record with 258 homers.
That was enough offense thanks to the work of Hens starter Kyle Lobstein and the bullpen. While the Knights got seven hits and two walks off Lobstein, he surrendered just one run in six innings.
“On nights like this, when you’re not as sharp as you’d like, you have to just find a way,” he said. “You have to make pitches and rely on your defense.
“You can’t let it get to you that [the other team] gets some hits or walks. You have to focus on just getting the batter out.”
Charlotte scored in the second when Lobstein allowed a double and two singles to the first three batters he faced. He eventually loaded the bases with a walk but limited the damage with three strikeouts.
The Knights also loaded the bases in the fourth with two outs, but Lobstein turned a grounder back to the mound into the inning‘s final out. The lefty stranded eight runners on base, including five in scoring position, in his six innings.
“When I give the team a chance to win, that’s a good thing to take away from the game,” Lobstein said. “I was battling early, but I settled down and I was efficient the last couple of innings.”
Blaine Hardy retired all six batters he faced, while Justin Miller survived a scare in the top of the ninth to record his third save.
Miller allowed a walk and two singles to plate one run and push the tying run to second before getting a long fly out to close out the win.
NOTES: Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski was at Fifth Third Field for the game. … While Suarez reached base twice on a hit batsman and a walk, he was retired in his two other at-bats to snap a seven-game hit streak. … “Ghostbusters Night” produced a crowd of 11,500 for the team’s seventh sellout this season and the 368th in the ballpark’s history.