TOLEDO -- Glen Perkins continued his metamorphosis Thursday night at Fifth Third Field and in the process put the Rochester Red Wings one game away from the Governors' Cup title.
The young southpaw, the club's first-round pick in the 2004 draft, spent much of this season searching to find a measure of consistency at Double-A New Britain. Though he showed flashes of what made him a top pick, he was far from dominant in the Eastern League.
It was only toward the end of his time with the Rock Cats that he began to look comfortable. Then came the call to join Rochester. Since donning a Red Wings uniform, Perkins has blossomed, looking every bit the first-rounder, pitching with confidence and poise, two traits that have never been more evident than in the postseason.
Perkins' latest effort came in Game 3 of the Cup Finals, a contest which he dominated as Rochester pounded the Toledo Mud Hens, 10-4, before a raucous crowd of 6,760. The victory gave the Wings, who banged out 17 hits, a 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 series, with the chance to earn their first Governors' Cup crown since 1997 on Friday night.
"It's a great victory tonight, but we haven't done anything yet," Rochester manager Stan Cliburn said. "The last game always seems to be the toughest. We've come this far. Let's go and finish it off."
What made the victory even more impressive was the fact that Perkins shut down the Hens after they grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Toledo had won 76 percent (125-39) of its games all-time at Fifth Third Field when scoring first, but Perkins clearly wasn't interested in history. He followed up Kevin Slowey's Triple-A debut with a dandy effort of his own.
Perkins went seven innings, striking out 10, including seven in a row at one point, and scattering six hits to earn his second victory in as many playoff outings. He allowed only one hit in six shutout innings Saturday night in the semifinal clincher over Scranton/Wilkes Barre. He has a 2.08 ERA in 17 1/3 innings over three outings (one in the regular season) since joining the Red Wings.
"It wasn't the first home run I've given up," said Perkins, who was 4-11 with a 3.91 ERA at New Britain. "But I know how to bounce back. I have to be able to trust myself. Early in the season, I struggled with run support, but it takes the pressure off when you're in a situation like this. You can go out and just make your pitches.
"I definitely can't say I did an awesome job there. It's tough to pitch when you're in a tight game all the time, where every pitch is magnified. It helps when you're in a game like this, but all-around, we were inconsistent down there."
Cliburn said he and pitching coach Stu Cliburn were watching Perkins closely to see how he would react to Josh Phelps' homer that had given the Mud Hens the lead. They were pleased he didn't get dejected after the blast. Rather, Perkins went after the Mud Hens, embracing the game plan the brothers Cliburn had laid out, which marked a departure from his modus operandi earlier in the year.
"He settled in and breezed," Stan Cliburn said. "He didn't rush, getting in the same groove he got into at Scranton. He was knocking guys off the plate and brushing them back.
"The reports I got on him early in the season was that he was frustrated with himself. Mr. Perkins hasn't dealt with a lot of adversity, and sometimes it takes a while to come around. That's where he's at now. He's focused now."
Rochester halved its deficit in the third on Jose Morales' solo shot. An inning later, the rout was on as the Red Wings scored four times off Eulogio De La Cruz. Garrett Jones led off the inning with his third playoff homer, but the big blow was a two-run single by Andres Torres.
Glenn Williams' two-run double highlighted a four-run sixth that essentially put the game out of reach, even for the homer-happy Hens, who connected for their 14th of the postseason.
Morales collected three hits and, after a shaky season of his own at New Britain, has opened some eyes with a .364 playoff batting average. He said his performance of late has been special, particularly since he hit .211 in 80 games for the Rock Cats.