For almost eight innings last night the Mud Hens' Pat Ahearne didn't allow a hit against Rochester.
By the end of the eighth, a chance for a no-hitter was gone.
By the ninth inning, the victory was almost gone, too.
Ahearne gave up five runs in that final frame before John Ennis got the final out as the Hens held on to claim a 6-5 victory over the Red Wings.
"I thought I was going to get it done," Ahearne said of the no-hitter. "When [Eric] Owens caught a ball in left [to lead off the eighth], I thought, 'It's going to happen tonight.' But it didn't turn out that way."
Ahearne got one out in the ninth before giving up back-to-back walks on close pitches to Alex Prieto and Luis Rodriguez. Augie Ojeda then doubled to deep right-center to drive home both runners. After a flyout, Justin Morneau and Juan Diaz hit back-to-back home runs to cut the Hens' lead to a single run and knock Ahearne out of the game.
"It was unfortunate to walk those two batters in that inning, but the ball Ojeda hit was a decent pitch," Ahearne said. "Tip your hat to him, because he hit it well and drove a couple of runs in. Then I just made two bad pitches - the only two bad pitches all night - and it turned into a tight one."
After Ennis walked Todd Dunwoody
on four pitches - one of which caused catcher Guillermo Rodriguez to argue so hard he was ejected by home-plate ump Joe Judkowitz - the Hens' new closer got Brian Simmons to ground out to preserve the win.
The victory was Toledo's third in the last four nights as well as its sixth in eight games against Rochester this season.
And while Ahearne may remember only his ninth-inning struggles, Hens manager Larry Parrish will remember that the right-hander nearly threw a complete game when the team desperately needed it. The Toledo bullpen had pitched more than 10 innings in the last two nights and needed a break, especially with a doubleheader in Columbus today.
"We had a short bullpen, and we wanted seven or eight innings [from Ahearne]," Parrish said. "He gave us eight innings - eight strong. Really strong. But you see it some times: a guy is pitching a no-hitter and he's wound up. Then he loses it, and the air comes out."
Ahearne allowed just one baserunner in the first seven innings, walking Morneau to lead off the second. He got Diaz to ground into a double play, then retired the next 18 batters in a row to take the no-hitter into the eighth.
Of the 26 outs Ahearne got 18 on ground balls.
"I was using my pitches effectively - for most of the game, anyway," Ahearne said. "I was making pitches and getting a lot of off-center contact that resulted in balls hit on the ground."
The no-hit bid ended with two outs in the eighth when Dunwoody hit a hard smash that bounced off Ust's glove at third or a single.
By that point the Hens had built a six-run lead. Toledo scored a run in the second off Rochester starter Seth Greisinger, who spent parts of four seasons with the Hens, when Andy Barkett tripled and Klassen doubled.
Guillermo Rodriguez gave Toledo another run in the third when he pounded a 1-1 pitch from Greisinger over the scoreboard in left and onto Summit Street for his fifth home run.
In the fourth the Hens scored four times as six straight batters reached base. One-out singles by Klassen, Chad Alexander and Morris produced a run, and after an error loaded the bases Guillermo Rodriguez singled in a second run. Nook Logan's line single to right brought home a third, and Chris Shelton's fly to shallow right scored Ust.
Guillermo Rodriguez was caught between second and third and eventually tagged out to end the inning. And that signaled the end of the Hens' offense.
"We came out smoking tonight," Parrish said. "When we got the lead, and Ahearne was pitching well, we didn't grind as hard the second half of the game. Guys thought we had enough, Ahearne was pitching great, and everybody sort of put it on cruise."
The Hens will travel to Columbus today for a doubleheader beginning at 4 p.m.
NOTES: Pitcher Nate Cornejo reported his arm felt fine after his 16-pitch effort Wednesday. The right-hander, on a rehab stint from Detroit, said the big test comes today when he throws two innings.
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