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Mud Hens strike first en route to win

06/20/2014, 12:01am EDT
By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Below cruises early to help Toledo get past RailRiders

Hens strike first en route to win

The Mud Hens’ Trevor Crowe celebrates his home run with his teammates to give Toledo a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Thursday. BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Wednesday night’s contest turned into a long night for the Mud Hens as rain kept the team at Fifth Third Field until nearly midnight.

That made the quick turn-around of Thursday’s noon start a challenge for both Toledo and visiting Scranton/​Wilkes-Barre.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view more photos

“We’re all professionals, so this is part of being a professional,” said Hens third baseman Wade Gaynor. “We just came out and tried to compete.

“You have to take it one pitch, one out at a time and just make things happen.”

The Mud Hens made enough things happen to claim a 7-4 win over the RailRiders on Thursday.

While the Toledo offense was out-hit 10-9, the Mud Hens took advantage of eight walks and four steals.

Ezequiel Carrera helped produce the Hens’ first run when he led off the bottom of the first by drawing a walk, stealing second, moving to third on a balk, and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Collins.

Trevor Crowe hammered his second home run of the season, a solo shot over the fence in right that made it 2-0.

“I don’t know the exact stats, but I’ve got to believe that when you score first, you usually win,” said Gaynor as the Hens improved to 28-9 when they score first. “To get that early lead was important.”

In the second, Toledo got back-to-back doubles from Jordan Lennerton and Gaynor to lead 3-0.

“A lot of times with a game like this, if you score first, you win,” Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “They did come back to tie it, but we turned around and got three ourselves.

“Every time they scored, we matched them.”

Early on, those three runs looked as if they may be enough for the win as starter Duane Below allowed just three baserunners in the first five innings. He used an economical 55 pitches to hold the RailRiders in check and did not allow a runner past second base.

“I try to think three pitches or less [to get an out],” Below said. “And when you get ahead of hitters, they start swinging, so you get early contact.

“That gets you out of innings quickly, and it gets your guys back in the dugout so they can hit.”

Below got the first two outs in the sixth before the roof caved in. Back-to-back doubles produced a run, a single brought home a second run, and a double into the right-field corner by former Mud Hen Scott Sizemore tied the game.

Kyle Roller singled up the middle, but Carrera threw Sizemore out at the plate to keep the game tied at 3-3.

“I was happy [overall], but that sixth inning is going to haunt me,” Below said. “It was frustrating. You can’t do that, because we had a three-run lead and we gave it up in one inning.”

The Hens responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth off Scranton/​Wilkes-Barre reliever Pat Venditte. Manny Pina singled, and after a two-out walk to Danny Worth, Carrera lined an RBI single to center — then took second on a throw to the plate.

That proved to be critical when Brandon Douglas followed with a slow roller to shortstop. Douglas beat the throw to first to score Worth from third, and Carrera raced around third to also score on the play.

The RailRiders got a run in the eight, but Toledo got that run back in the bottom of the eighth without benefit of a hit.

Gaynor and Worth drew walks from reliever Danny Burawa, then advanced a base on a wild pitch. The next batter, Carrera, struck out, but when the third-strike pitch got away from catcher Austin Romine, Gaynor scored.

“Pitchers try to stay away from leadoff walks for a reason — those runners usually score,” Gaynor said. “So we just kept pushing.”

NOTES: Ben Guez was not in the lineup Thursday after suffering a back injury Wednesday. Parrish said Guez could possibly return to the lineup today when the team begins a four-game series at Charlotte. … The attendance for the contest was 9,811 to give the Mud Hens their 11th sellout this season and 372nd at Fifth Third Field.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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