Toledo’s Efren Navarro singles home Jason Krizan and JaCoby Jones in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Mud Hens rallied to beat Durham on Sunday at Fifth Third Field. BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Efren Navarro hung around for what seemed like an eternity.
The Toledo Mud Hens’ first baseman fouled off pitch after pitch in a critical eighth-inning at-bat, watched a disputed 2-2 offering go just wide for a ball, and stood idly by as the umpire made two ejections while he was in the batter’s box.
Navarro made it worth the wait. He came through with a clutch hit to swing the game in Toledo’s favor, scoring a two-out, two-run single that pushed the Mud Hens to a 6-5 victory against visiting Durham on Sunday at Fifth Third Field.
With the Bulls up 5-4, Durham catcher Curt Casali and manager Jared Sandberg were ejected in the middle of Navarro’s at-bat. Bulls reliever Adam Kolarek’s 2-2 pitch to Navarro was a borderline pitch home plate umpire Scott Costello deemed to be outside. Casali argued and was tossed; Sandberg came to home plate to protest and was sent to the clubhouse as well.
“I have to go back and look at it again, but I thought it was out, and I wasn’t going to swing,” Navarro said. “Apparently [Costello] was calling that pitch throughout the whole game, so as far as their end, they wanted that pitch. From my end, I thought it was a ball.”
Navarro then swatted the 3-2 pitch — the 12th of the at-bat — over the shortstop’s head to score Jason Krizan and JaCoby Jones and give Toledo the lead.
He departed the field with a wet uniform from his teammates dumping a cooler on him, the fruits of his key at-bat.
“He made his pitches, and I just fouled them off. I have no idea how,” Navarro said. “I told myself stay up the middle, especially with a guy like him who’s throwing 88, 90 from down below. Fortunately, I came up on top.”
Toledo starter Matt Crouse earned a no-decision. He finished with a line of 6⅓ innings, seven hits, two walks, three strikeouts, and three runs for the Mud Hens. Edward Mujica pitched around a two-out double to earn the save for Toledo.
Navarro, who also walked twice, helped Toledo finish the effort with a series win.
“That was an outstanding AB,” Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said. “The last couple days, he’s gotten a couple hits, but he’s been getting the short end of the stick with hard-hit balls that didn’t fall in for him. I’m happy that today he got that big hit.
“I hope he gets on a roll again.”
After Crouse completed a perfect first, Jones tripled to left-center field, then scored later in the inning on Tyler Collins’ double that was just out of reach of Durham right fielder Jake Bauers.
The Bulls tied the game at 1 on Casey Gillaspie’s RBI groundout in the second, but Toledo continued its offensive surge against Durham starting pitcher Hunter Wood. Steven Moya tripled down the left- field line, and came around to score on Argenis Diaz’s single.
Jones plated Matt den Dekker with a double that put Toledo ahead 3-1.
Shane Peterson clubbed a two-run home run off Crouse in the fourth, but Toledo again took back the lead and chased Wood in the process.
Wood allowed six hits, three walks, and four runs in 3⅓ innings of work before giving way to the Durham bullpen.
Crouse left the game in the seventh ahead 4-3 and in line for the win.
Joe Jimenez made his first appearance for Toledo since May 3 after an extended stint on the disabled list, but his return got off to a rocky start. Casali led off with a single, Bauers followed a double, and Patrick Leonard walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Mike Marjama singled to score Casali and tie the game at 4. Jimenez struck out Shane Peterson, but Gillaspie’s sacrifice fly to center field allowed Bauers to score easily from third base and take the lead.
Toledo pulled Jimenez — who allowed two earned runs in two-thirds of inning — in favor of Kyle Ryan, who struck out Alec Sole with the bases loaded to end the inning before Durham could score again.
In an encouraging sign for Toledo’s offense, hitters up and down the lineup contributed. Diaz went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Moya tripled and scored twice, and Jones collected two extra-base hits and two runs.
“Everybody had a part in it, and that’s a big part of winning,” Rojas said. “If one guy doesn’t get the job done, the guy behind him does. That’s what it’s all about.”
Mud Hens outfielder Steven Moya tries to dive to catch a ball in the top of the eighth inning against Durham at Fifth Third Field. BLADE/JETTA FRASER