Second place in the International League's West Division is out of the question for the Toledo Mud Hens after they dropped an 11-7 decision to Columbus at Skeldon Stadium yesterday.
Toledo fell apart in the late innings, allowing eight runs in the final four frames in losing for the third straight day.
The Hens now are two games behind the Clippers with only today's game left on the schedule. Toledo has not finished higher than third place since the 1980 team finished second in a one-division league.
“I'm very disappointed,” Hens manager Bruce Fields said of not finishing second. “But I don't know if some other guys care. Some guys here don't care, but that's on them. Some do care, but not enough.”
The inning that shot down the Hens was the top of the eighth when Columbus sent 11 batters to the plate and scored five times despite getting only two hits. The Clippers benefited from five walks and two wild pitches.
Kevin Flanagan drew a walk from Hens reliever Matt Miller to lead off that inning, and Chad Fonville followed with a single. Kary Bridges laid down a sacrifice bunt, and catcher David Lindstrom picked up the ball looking to throw out the lead runner at third base. When he saw third wasn't covered he threw to first - but his throw sailed over the head of Pedro Santana and flew into the right-field corner, allowing all three runners to score.
A walk and a single knocked Miller out of the game, and Shane Heams retired one batter before walking three and uncorking two wild pitches that scored runs.
“How many walks did we have? Twenty-five? It seemed like it,” said Fields about his bullpen's seven-walk performance. “Walks late in the game will hurt you. Our bullpen has been struggling, no bones about it. But we have to find a way to get outs.”
The Clippers took a 2-0 lead in the first on Erick Almonte's two-run home run.
But Toledo tied the game in the bottom of the second when Jarrod Patterson led off with a single and Brian Rios drilled a two-run homer to left off Columbus starter Adrian Hernandez.
The teams traded runs in the third before Toledo took a 4-3 lead in the fourth when Rich Becker singled home Rios. But Columbus came back with the tying run on a sixth-inning RBI single by Pascual Matos.
The Clippers took the lead for good with two seventh-inning runs thanks to four singles sandwiched around a walk, and the Clippers' five-run eighth inning outburst made a three-run Hens' rally in the bottom of the ninth meaningless.
FOUR CALLED UP: The only good news for the Hens came after the game, when four players - pitchers Adam Bernero, Heath Murray and Matt Miller as well as outfielder Chris Wakeland - found out they were being promoted to Detroit after today's game.
“I'm very happy for the guys who got called up,” Fields said. “But if the roster spots were available, it would have been nice to have a Rios or a (Carlos) Mendez get the call-up.”