NORFOLK, Va. - As far as matchups go, the one Toledo Mud Hens relief pitcher Tyler Walker was faced with yesterday afternoon at Harbor Park was not in his favor.
With runners at the corners and two out in the eight inning, Walker had to pitch to Norfolk Tides catcher Jason Phillips with the Mud Hens clinging to a 4-2 lead.
“Jason's been my catcher for the last five or six years,” Walker said. “He knows that when I'm behind in the count 3-1, I usually like to throw a fastball away.”
That's what Walker threw. That's what Phillips raked into the gap in right-center. That's what happens when a pitcher faces his former team 10 days after he was picked up off major league waivers.
Walker was property of the New York Mets since 1997, when he was a second-round draft pick. Now he belongs to the Detroit Tigers. But there's a history with the Mets organization that can't be erased.
“He still should have thrown me a fastball away,” Phillips said. “Nine times out of 10, I roll over that pitch and ground to short. This time I didn't.”
All tied going into the ninth, the Tides then loaded the bases with one out and won this one 5-4 on a one-out single by Jose Reyes over the head of Mud Hens right fielder Cody Ross. Ross was playing shallow in an attempt to possibly throw out Norfolk's Prentice Redman if he elected to tag up on a fly ball.
The Mud Hens (3-5) let one get away, wasting a solo home run by Kevin Witt, his second homer in as many days, and a two-run shot by Craig Monroe.
Witt's homer led off the second inning; Monroe's came with two out in the third. The Mud Hens scored again in the eighth for a 4-2 lead when Monroe singled to left, stole second, then scored on a double by Witt off the fence in right.
The eighth inning unraveled for Walker after he walked Reyes on a full-count fastball that just missed the inside corner. Reyes then stole second, his 10th swipe of the young season, and Marco Scutaro singled to right, putting runners at the corners.
Walker was able to strike out Raul Gonzalez, who leads the league with a .481 average. But then Phillips came to the plate.
In the ninth, the Tides (6-3) loaded the bases with one out. Redman reached on a drag-bunt single.
Mud Hens reliever Fernando Rodney then hit Jorge Toca with a pitch. After Esix Snead popped out while attempting a sacrifice bunt, pinch-hitter Mike Glavine, the younger brother of Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, singled sharply to right to load the bases for Reyes.
The teams will conclude this four-game series at 12:15 today. Norfolk will start right- hander Aaron Heilman (2-0, 9.69 ERA) while the Mud Hens will go with right-hander Shane Loux (1-0, 0.00).