Toledo Mud Hens DH Jason Krizan, left, slaps five to LF Jim Adduci after scoring a run against Indianapolis during the fifth inning of Monday's season-ending game. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
For the Toledo Mud Hens, Monday’s 7-4 victory against Indianapolis was the last game of the 2017 season.
For starting pitcher Josh Turley, it was the final time this season to make an impression on Detroit’s front office.
The left-handed knuckleballer took advantage of the opportunity, holding the Indians to two runs before tiring in the eighth inning to claim his second Triple-A win this season.
“It was an important game, especially since I’m transformed this year into an entirely different pitcher,” said Turley, who threw the knuckleball about 75 percent of the time in the game.
Turley allowed a home run to Gift Ngoepe in the first inning, and Indianapolis also scratched out a run in the second on a two-out RBI single by Edwin Espinal.
But that was the only hit Turley allowed in six at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
“That’s the thing about throwing a knuckleball: You live and die with it,” Turley said. “When it’s not going well, you stick to it and hope it turns around.
“When it’s going good, you just ride the wave.”
Meanwhile, the Mud Hens put together a five-run burst in the third, sending nine batters to the plate. Jim Adduci and Omar Infante posted RBI doubles in that rally, and Jason Krizan capped it with a two-run triple high off the right-field wall.
“We’ve been doing that since the start of August: Bunching hits, and getting clutch hits,” Toledo manager Mike Rojas said.
That rally allowed Turley to pitch with a lead that grew by two in the fifth thanks to RBI singles by Dominic Ficociello and Kody Eaves.
“That definitely relaxes you,” Turley said. “It gives you a comfort zone.
“You can just let them hit it, and you want them to just make soft contact in the middle of the field with most of their swings.”
In the eighth, the left-hander surrendered a two-run homer to Barrett Barnes, then a double and walk that brought the tying run to the plate with two outs.
But Bruce Rondon came on and retired Kevin Newman on a popup behind the plate to end that rally, and Edward Mujica used a game-ending double play to escape a two-on, one-out rally in the ninth to claim his 21st save this season.
The victory clinched the Mud Hens’ first 70-win season since 2009. But Toledo posted a 70-71 record, their eighth consecutive losing season, and the Hens finished third in the International League’s West Division after Columbus closed its season with a win against Louisville.
“We wanted to finish at .500, and these guys had a great August,” Rojas said. “They never packed it in. They still came to work every day. And that showed.”
NOTES: After the game, the Tigers called up right-hander Victor Alcantara from the Mud Hens. … Rojas said Mud Hens pitching coach Jeff Pico also would join the Tigers. … The announced crowd of 10,500 was the 25th sellout at Fifth Third Field this season.