Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish was looking for a second chance.
Parrish's decision to allow starter Nate Robertson to pitch to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Travis Chapman proved costly as Chapman slugged a ninth-inning homer to provide all the scoring in the Red Barons' 3-0 victory over the Hens last night at Fifth Third Field.
Robertson had pitched masterfully, no-hitting Scranton over the first 62/3 innings. But in the ninth inning, with two runners on and the right-handed Chapman at the plate - and with right-hander Matt Anderson warming up in the bullpen - Parrish decided to allow the southpaw face the IL's RBI leader.
“I thought Nate pitched a great ball game,” Parrish said. “I was trying to get Nate through the inning to get a win. He threw well enough, and he deserved the chance. But I'd like a do-over on that right now.”
Robertson's first pitch to Chapman was an inside fastball and Chapman deposited the ball over the fence in left-center for his seventh home run of the season.
“[Catcher Brandon] Inge called for the fastball in, and that's what I wanted to throw, “ Robertson said. “But [Chapman] cheated on the pitch and was looking for the fastball in. I threw it pretty much where I wanted; he just hit it out of the park. What can you say? You just tip your cap to him.”
For seven innings Robertson and Scranton starter Josh Hancock were bidding for no-hitters. In fact, until Chapman doubled off Robertson with two outs in the seventh, the game's only base runner had come on a Toledo error in the opening inning.
Robertson pitched out of that seventh-inning jam by striking out Damon Minor. Then the Hens finally broke up Hancock's perfect-game bid in the bottom of the seventh when Danny Klassen tripled to right-center. Hancock walked Patrick Lennon, but coaxed Hiram Bocachica to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
That set the stage for Scranton's ninth-inning rally. With one out Jason Knufper singled past a diving Klassen at shortstop, and Chase Utley laid down a bunt single along the third-base line to break out of an 0-for-24 skid.
Anderson was ready in the Hens' bullpen, but Parrish decided to let the left-handed Robertson face the right-handed hitting Chapman.
“I had decided that if Utley got a hit, I would take him [Robertson] out,” Parrish said. “But when Utley bunted for a hit, well, that's almost not a hit.”
Robertson appreciated the chance Parrish gave him to retire Chapman, who spent spring training just one locker away from the Hens' lefty. “I wasn't surprised [to stay in the game],'' Robertson said. “LP and [pitching coach] Jeff Jones have respect [for] me, and I've tried to earn it. I wanted it, and I wanted to persevere through that [inning].
“If you're in control of a game, you feel as if you're supposed to win. This was one we were supposed to win. Tonight is one of the tougher losses I've had - it's hard to walk away from it.”
NOTES: Injured Tiger first baseman Carlos Pena will join the Mud Hens today. Pena is expected to rehab his strained left calf in three games with the Hens this weekend, then join the Tigers for their series in Boston next Monday. ... Outfielder Ernie Young was at the ballpark before yesterday's game. If no major league team claims Young, who was designated for assignment by Detroit on Tuesday, by today's deadline he said the chances are good he will return to the Mud Hens.