Toledo's Efren Navarro waits for a teammate at home plate to high five after scoring a run during the first baseball game of a doubleheader between the Toledo Mud Hens and Syracuse Chiefs at Fifth Third Field in Toledo on Aug. 7. BLADE/KURT STEISS
Normally teams are happy to return home.
But you will have to forgive the Toledo Mud Hens if they might have had some trepidation coming back to Fifth Third Field on Monday after one of the best road trips in recent history.
Toledo won six times in seven games, starting with a three-game sweep at Louisville. The Mud Hens then claimed victories in their first three games at Columbus before losing Sunday’s game 7-0 to the Clippers.
At the track!— Toledo Mud Hens (@MudHens) August 7, 2017
At the wall!
JaCoby Jones hauls it in!!! pic.twitter.com/qJjms2P0eG
“We had good pitching and clutch hitting,” Mud Hens manager Mike Rojas said. “We had several comebacks late in games.”
Toledo kept things rolling with a 4-2 victory against Syracuse in the first game of a doubleheader, but lost the nightcap by the same score.
As a team, the Hens hit just .247 on the trip, but they scored 36 runs — an average of 5.1 runs per game — thanks to a lot of extra-base punch. Toledo pounded 17 doubles, three triples and six home runs — Tyler Collins had three of the long balls — for an impressive .418 team slugging percentage.
“A lot of guys have put together good at-bats lately,” Rojas said. “Collins has had great at-bats, [Brendan] Ryan has had good at-bats, [Omar] Infante has had good at-bats, and [Efren] Navarro has been hot.
“And [Matt] den Dekker had a clutch pinch-hit at-bat to drive in a run. We had a lot of people come up with clutch hits on that road trip.”
Collins hit .391 on the road trip, Bryan Holaday had a .333 batting average, and den Dekker hit .300.
Meanwhile, the Toledo pitching staff was impressive on the trip, posting a 3.05 ERA and surrendering three runs or less in four of the seven games.
Rojas was confident the Mud Hens could keep the positive vibes flowing as they returned home.
“We’ve got a bunch of veteran guys, and when you get a veteran club going in the right direction, it keeps rolling that way,” he said. “The ball is bouncing our way, and we’re getting breaks and hits when we need them.
“Things right now are working the right way.”
Things continued moving in the right direction for the Hens in the first contest as they used a big third-inning rally to claim the win.
Collins opened the inning with a single but was forced out at second by JaCoby Jones, who then moved to third on a single by Navarro.
Dominic Ficociello doubled Jones home and pushed Navarro to third, and both runners scored on a single by Jason Krizan.
Toledo added a run in the sixth when den Dekker doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice by Omar Infante, then scored on a daring bit of baserunning. With the infield pulled in, Ryan hit a high hopper to third base, but den Dekker touched home before he was tagged to score the run.
That was enough offense thanks to the fine start of Buck Farmer, who held the Chiefs in check until the seventh.
Syracuse scored an unearned run in the second. Alejandro De Aza beat out a bunt, then took second when Ficociello threw wildly to first before Pedro Severino singled him home.
After that single, Farmer retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced before the Chiefs scored a run in the seventh. Farmer, who struck out two and walked three in the game, allowed a one-out double to Brandon Snyder and a walk to De Aza before Severino singled to load the bases.
Blaine Hardy came on in relief and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Chad Huffman before picking Severino off first to end the game and claim his third save of the season.
The second game was played to make up a contest in Syracuse that was rained out. As a result, the Mud Hens were the road team despite playing on their home field.
Toledo took the lead in the third inning. Jones led off with a double, then advanced to third on a groundout. With two outs Krizan walked, and on a 2-1 pitch to Miguel Gonzalez, Krizan raced to second. The Chiefs were unable to throw him out, and Jones raced home to score the run on a double steal.
But Syracuse scored four times in the bottom of the third to claim the victory. The Chiefs sent 10 batters to the plate, and the key hits were a three-run homer by Zach Collier and a run-scoring double by Clint Robinson.
Toledo got one run back on a home run to right by Navarro, his 10th this season, but did not score again.
NOTES: Before the game the Tigers called up third baseman Jeimer Candelario to replace Jose Iglesias, who was placed on the bereavement list. To replace Candelario on the Hens roster, Kody Eaves was called up from Double-A Erie.