Mud Hens starting pitcher Derek Hankins gave up one run in seven innings to win the first game on Saturday. BLADE/ISAAC HALE
Christmas in July? Hard for the Mud Hens’ Brandon Douglas to argue.
Douglas had a day to remember in Toledo’s day-night doubleheader Saturday. He had a double and a triple in the Hens’ 4-1 first-game victory over Louisville, then slammed two home runs to key a 5-1 victory.
In Toledo’s first four games against the Bats, the second baseman has gone 8-for-14 (.571) with a double, a triple and two home runs.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view more photos from Game 1
It’s a far cry from the 1-for-23 mark Douglas had before leaving the team just before the All-Star Break to take part in his sister’s wedding.
“After one of the worst first halves of my career … I asked my dad if he would throw me some BP — and he hadn’t done that since high school,” Douglas said. “I’m sure he had some fun, but for me it was great to have a BP session that had no pressure — I was just swinging.
“I know my dad is watching the games at home and smiling.”
In the second contest, he got the Hens on the board in the third by slamming a 3-2 pitch off the left-field scoreboard for a two-run homer. Then with two outs in the fifth inning, he pounded another home run down the line.
Mike Hessman also had two home runs in the game, hammering solo shots in the sixth and eighth as the Hens won their fourth straight and moved to the .500 mark for the first time this season.
What’s more, four straight wins over the Bats have lifted Toledo over Louisville into third place in the International League’s West Division.
While Douglas and Hessman were the hitting stars, credit for the second-game win also goes to the bullpen as six relievers combined to limit Louisville to one run — a solo home run by Juan Silverio in the seventh.
“We could have been looking down the rifle barrel, and instead we’ve come out smelling like a rose,” manager Larry Parrish said.
Toledo’s first-game starter, Derek Hankins, helped keep the bullpen fresh by covering seven innings and limiting the Bats to one run on four hits and three walks.
Hankins knew Toledo faced a nine-inning “bullpen” game in the night portion of the twin-bill, but he said he tried not let that affect him.
“You have to put it out of your mind, but it’s in your mind,” he admitted. “You can’t go to the mound and think you have to give the team seven innings and, for me, the first three innings were a little rocky.
“But after that I got some early swings and contact and got some ground balls.”
Louisville scored a run in the first on a groundout by Jack Hannahan, and the Bats had at least one runner on base in each of the first three innings.
Douglas got the Hens rolling offensively in the third when he followed a walk to Daniel Fields by smashing a line drive into the gap in left-center for a run scoring triple. He came home on a sacrifice fly by Ezequiel Carrera.
“Friday, I hit a ball in the exact same spot, and I didn’t feel I got all of it, but I hustled around and got a double,” Douglas said. “I felt I squared up this one, and when I got to second base I thought, ‘Let’s roll the dice and see if I can get [to third].’ And it worked out.”
Douglas also played a key role in Toledo’s run in the fifth, pounding a double into the left-field corner and then scoring on a single by Hernan Perez.
NOTES: The Mud Hens wore green “elf” jerseys for the day contest and red “Santa” jerseys for the night game. The team auctioned the jerseys during the two games, with the day-game proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the night game benefiting Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio. ... Before the game, the Hens released catcher Ronny Paulino, who had been on the team’s Restricted List. Paulino had been suspended for 100 games for a violation of baseball’s drug rules. … After the contest, Toledo released outfielder Trevor Crowe to make room on the roster for infielder Danny Worth. Worth is expected to return to the team today. ... Before the game, the Tigers called up RHP Corey Knebel from Toledo. Detroit sent RHP Chad Smith to the Hens, and he will be added to the roster today. … The Mud Hens drew a crowd of 8,304 for the day portion of Saturday’s twin-bill, and a sellout crowd of 11,000 for the night contest. That sellout was the team’s 18th this season.