For eight innings yesterday the Mud Hens tried to keep pace with the Columbus Clippers' Cuban connection.
But the strain of matching the zeroes posted by Jose Contreras and Adrian Hernandez proved to be too much for Toledo, which surrendered five runs in the ninth inning of a 7-1 loss at Fifth Third Field.
The game, which began at 10:30 a.m., was played before a sellout crowd of 10,300 for the first of three School Celebration Days. The full house was the Hens' second this season.
Contreras, making his first professional start in the United States, handcuffed the Hens on three hits through the first five innings; Hernandez allowed only a home run by Hiram Bocachica in his three innings.
“The way they were pitching, we knew we had to keep [the score] tight,'' said Hens manager Larry Parrish. “We knew we weren't going to score a lot, so we tried to keep the score close and hope someone hit a big blow. And we did that until the ninth - but then things started to unravel.”
In the Clippers' half of the ninth Michel Hernandez greeted Toledo reliever Terry Pearson with a single to right. A wild pitch moved Hernandez to second, and David Post laid down a bunt to move him to third. Post reached when no one covered the bag.
With the infield in, pinch-hitter John Rodriguez singled up the middle to drive Michel Hernandez home. One out later a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, and an intentional walk loaded the bases.
Marcus Thames hit a grounder into the hole at short, but Danny Klassen's throw home was dropped by Yohanny Valera. Then Bobby Smith hit a double-play grounder that Warren Morris booted, scoring a third run, and Ryan McGuire's two-run single put the game out of reach.
The Clippers' rally ruined a pitchers' duel between Contreras and Hens starter Andy Van Hekken. Van Hekken struggled in the first, loading the bases thanks to a pair of walks, but escaped that jam when Smith grounded out.
In the second Michel Hernandez homered, but Van Hekken allowed just one other hit until the sixth, when Fernando Seguignol doubled to lead off and Smith singled.
“The first inning was a little rough, but after that I settled down,” Van Hekken said. “I started to get ahead of guys, which is a big key for me. I didn't feel very comfortable with my delivery - it was a little mechanical thing.”
Those two runs were more than enough for the Clippers, who won for just the second time in their last seven games.
“[Contreras] was pretty nasty today,” Parrish said. “He had a very good fastball, and he threw some nasty [split-finger fastballs]. He was awfully good.”
Adrian Hernandez, who also hails from Cuba, sailed through his three innings. He yielded Bocachica's homer but struck out six of the 10 Hens he faced.
“Hernandez was equally tough,” Parrish said. “He threw his slider today at any time in the count.”
If the count was 3-1 or 3-2, he would snap a slider off and we weren't ready for him to do that. It looked like we were anticipating the fastball on those counts and we weren't in the area on the slider.”
NOTES: Yesterday's sellout crowd was Toledo's 29th in Fifth Third Field history. The crowd tied that of 14 other games as the fourth-highest in the stadium's two seasons. ... After The Hens' lineup changed at the last moment when Andres Torres, who was supposed to lead off and play center, instead was promoted to Detroit, Jhonny Perez was inserted into the lineup at the last moment to play left field and to replace Torres; Perez played left while Bocachica, who was scheduled to start in left, moved to center. ... Toledo has the day off today before beginning an eight-game road trip to Ottawa and Buffalo.