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Mud Hens continue hot start to year

04/17/2017, 12:09am EDT
By By JOHN WAGNER BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Toledo now 8-3 after beating Indianapolis


Toledo's John Hicks tries to avoid the tag of Indianapolis second baseman Gift Ngoepe during Sunday’s game at Fifth Third Field. Hicks was 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in the game. BLADE/LORI KING

The Mud Hens will hit the road on a high note thanks to an impressive 9-5 victory Sunday against Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field.

Toledo trailed 3-0 early but buckled down, tying the contest before using a six-run seventh to claim the win, the team’s eighth in nine games.

“This was a great team win,” catcher John Hicks said. “We got down early, but the pitching staff kept us in the game and the offense kept chipping away until we had a big inning.”

IN PICTURES: Mud Hens 9, Indianapolis 5

Toledo is now 8-3 this season, the best start for the franchise since the 2009 team also got off to an 8-3 start.

The game had a rocky beginning as Hens starter William Cuevas, who threw 15 pitches for the Tigers two days earlier, surrendered a run in the first and two more in the second.

But the 26-year-old Venezuela native held Indianapolis scoreless on just two hits in the next three innings.

“We needed him to limit the damage, and that’s what he did,” Toledo manager Mike Rojas said of Cuevas. “His slider was hanging a little bit, he wasn’t sharp — his command was off — but he battled and gave us what we needed.”

After throwing 47 pitches and allowing five hits and two walks in the first two innings, Cuevas retired nine of the final 11 batters he faced.

“Early on, he was cutting some of his pitches and his breaking pitches were up,” Hicks said of Cuevas. “He got behind his fastball better so that it stayed true instead of cutting.”

Meanwhile, the Toledo offense managed just one hit in the first three innings against Indianapolis starter Steven Brault before getting a key hit in the fourth. With two outs and Hicks on second in the fourth, Michael Almanzar unloaded a long two-run home run to left.

“If we get behind, we still feel we can come back,” Rojas said. “We battle in our at-bats, and when we have runners in scoring position, we’ve been able to drive them in.”

The Mud Hens tied the game in the sixth when Jim Adduci led off with a triple, then scored an out later when Efren Navarro’s hard liner went off Brault’s glove into right field for an RBI single.

“As you chip away, the morale in the dugout goes up,” Hicks said. “Having a bunch of veterans, it’s a fun dugout and clubhouse to be in.

“And we never feel we’re out of a game.”

Toledo broke the game open by sending 10 batters to the plate in the seventh, taking advantage of reliever Cody Dickson’s wildness after the left-hander walked Alex Presley and Brendan Ryan to get the rally started.

David Lough laid down a sacrifice bunt and Dickson threw wildly to third, allowing Presley to score while Ryan went to third and Lough to second.

Omar Infante greeted Indians reliever Pat Light with a two-run double, and Infante scored on Matt Murton’s hard single off the right-field wall. Adduci walked, then Hicks singled home Murton before Navarro added a sacrifice fly to plate Adduci.

Hicks finished with three hits, raising his batting average to a .467 mark that lifts him to a spot amongst the best hitters in the International League.

“I’m just trying to stay relaxed and just see the ball,” he said. “I’ve gotten some good pitches to hit, and I’ve been fortunate to have a ton of guys on base in front of me.”

Angel Nesbitt earned the victory with two scoreless innings before the big Toledo rally. Edward Mujica allowed a two-run homer to Jason Rogers in the eighth, but Joe Jimenez locked down the win with three consecutive strikeouts after a leadoff single in the top of the ninth.

“When you have a veteran club, they play hard and play the game right,” Rojas said. “They play hard for nine innings, and that’s all you can ask.”

NOTES: Before the game, the Mud Hens placed Juan Perez on the disabled list with a hand injury. Argenis Diaz was called up from Double-A Erie to fill the open spo. … Toledo begins a six-game, seven-day road trip with three contests at Syracuse starting Tuesday. The Hens also will play three at Lehigh Valley before returning to Fifth Third Field for a six-game homestand starting April 26.

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

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Mud Hens catcher John Hicks and closer Joe Jimenez congratulate each other after Jimenez struck out Austin Meadows to end Sunday’s game at Fifth Third Field. BLADE/LORI KING

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