Mud Hens pitcher Duane Below tags out Buffalo’s Jonathan Diaz in the third inning Saturday night. Diaz was picked off at first base and caught in a rundown before Below made the tag. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
The Mud Hens faced one of the better pitching prospects in baseball on Saturday, and it seemed to bring out the best in them.
Toledo roughed up Buffalo’s Aaron Sanchez, Toronto’s top prospect, for six hits and five runs in just four innings to claim a 7-2 victory at Fifth Third Field.
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“We battled pretty well against [Sanchez],” Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “It was going to take our ‘A’ game [to beat him], and our guys got up for it.”
Toledo scored twice against Sanchez in the fourth, then had their first three batters reach base against him in the fifth as part of a five-run rally that cemented the Hens’ fourth win in six games.
“We knew he had good stuff on the first pitch of the ballgame — he registered 97 [miles per hour],” said James McCann, who had two of Toledo’s eight hits. “You have to respect that, and he has a plus-breaking ball, so you have to respect that pitch as well.”
Tyler Collins got the Hens’ fourth-inning rally rolling with a single, stole second, then took third on a flyout by McCann.
Ben Guez then lined a shot to deep center the Bisons centerfielder Colby Rasmus gave up on — only to see the ball bounce on the warning track, then hop the fence for a ground-rule double.
“That ball sounded like [a home run],” Parrish said. “You never know in this ballpark what the ball is going to do.”
Trevor Crowe then singled to score Guez.
Buffalo tied the game in the fifth thanks to a two-out, two-run single by Rasmus, who is on a major-league rehab assignment from Toronto. It was the only blemish for Toledo starter Duane Below, who improved to 5-1 by giving up just five hits and two runs in six innings.
“It looked as if Below got two outs, then lost his concentration against the bottom of their order,” Parrish said of the fifth. “He put some guys on base, and Rasmus came up there and whacked a bullet.”
But the Mud Hens responded with five runs in the bottom of that inning to put the game out of reach. Toledo sent 10 men to the plate and collected just three hits, all singles. But the Bisons also made a couple errors and walked three batters, while the Hens also mixed in three stolen bases.
“It was especially big because we had scored two [runs], then given up two,” McCann said. “The momentum had shifted back their way, so putting together a rally like that was key for us.
“We just had good at-bat after good at-bat. … Guys were taking pitches and making him work, and then guys came through.”
Danny Worth started the rally with a walk, then stole second before Ezequiel Carrera hit a check-swing roller down the third-base line. Carrera beat the throw to first for a single, but Jared Goedert’s throw was wild and allowed Worth to score.
Carrera stole both second and third before Hernan Perez drew a walk, and Collins hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Carrera and allowed Perez to move to second.
Mike Hessman walked and McCann singled to load the bases. Then with two outs, Crowe hit a grounder between first and second; Buffalo pitcher John Stilson dropped the throw to first, allowing two runs to score.
“When [Stilson] dropped that ball at first base, that really helped us,” Parrish said. “That opened up the floodgates.
“Instead of a 4-2 game, we got two more runs and eventually had some breathing room.”
Jordan Lennerton followed with an RBI single to cap the rally.
After Below used a double play to get out of the sixth, Justin Miller followed with two scoreless innings of relief, and Kevin Whelan collected three strikeouts to finish off the win.
NOTES: After the game the Tigers promoted LHP Blaine Hardy to Detroit. … Carrera has stolen 27 bases this season, 10 more than any other player in the International League. … Perez walked in the fifth but was 0 for 3 the rest of the game to snap a six-game hitting streak. … Saturday’s crowd of 10,800 was the Mud Hens 10th sellout this season and 371st this season.