Casey Crosby on Thursday hoped to find the same rhythm and feel he had enjoyed last week in validating his place as one of the Tigers’ top pitching prospects.
He did. It just took a while.
The Mud Hens left-hander wrapped his season of promise mixed with exasperating inconsistency into one long night at Fifth Third FIeld.
For Crosby, it was the good, the bad, and the first inning of the Hens’ 8-7 walk-off win over Columbus. He walked and balked his way through a first inning that had the bullpen active one out into the game and labored in the second, only to respond as if nothing was ever amiss.
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Crosby (2-5) set down 10 of his last 12 hitters, then retired for the night and watched the Hens send 11 men to the plate to turn a two-run deficit into a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
The Hens later ended this 3-hour, 35-minute marathon — a night that featured 18 combined walks that manager Phil Nevin labeled “ugly” — with, fittingly, a misplayed game-winning grounder by Argenis Diaz. Brad Davis scored from third with one out in the ninth after Clippers third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall skipped the throw home past the catcher.
“I’m glad we won, but some things just can’t happen this way,” Nevin said.
His main source of frustration was the pitching, beginning with the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Crosby’s latest act of an uneven spring.
Ranked by Baseball America as the Tigers’ eighth overall prospect, he has yet to reliably command his pitches. Crosby lost four of his five starts and began Thursday with 29 walks in 48 2/3 innings.
His last outing offered hope of a corner turned. In Crosby’s second appearance since coming off the seven-day disabled list because of a shoulder impingement, he took a no-hitter into the sixth and held Louisville to two hits while striking out eight and walking one over six-plus scoreless innings.
There would be no carryover. After Ezequiel Carrera grounded out to lead off the game, Crosby lost any semblance of control. In order, he walked Matt Lawson on four pitches, walked Lonnie Chisenhall, allowed a run-scoring single to Cord Phelps, and walked Chun-Hsiu Chen and Tim Fedroff.
Adding insult, Crosby balked in a run when he suddenly stopped mid-delivery — a gaffe that had him shouting to the skies.
Yet just when he appeared hurtling toward an early exit — with the bases loaded, one out, and a reliever warming up — he got Matt Carson to ground into a double play. He escaped the inning allowing only two runs, and after a rugged second pushed his pitch count to 56, he retired his next eight batters. In all, Crosby allowed three runs on three hits over five innings. He struck out five and walked five.
“After the first inning, if you had told me he’d gone five, I’m not sure I would have believed that,” Nevin said. “He made some adjustments, the proper adjustments. but to come out of the game like that, you just can’t start like that. ... Our job is to grade past this level. The next level, he doesn’t get out of that first inning.”
EXTRA INNINGS: The crowd of 8,056 included about 800 Vietnam War-era veterans, many of whom were recognized before the game. The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, a replica of the permanent wall in Washington will be on display through Sunday at International Park.