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Published: Saturday, 8/14/2004

Richmond extends Hens' August swoon

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Toledo had lost nine in a row before beating Charlotte Wednesday. But the problems that have plagued the Mud Hens in August didn't go away just because the Hens beat the Knights.

In fact, those difficulties were laid bare last night as Toledo dropped a 7-1 decision to Richmond.

"After winning the other night and getting rained out, you're thinking, `Maybe we've got the bad part behind us,'●" said Hens manager Larry Parrish. "But we didn't have a very good game tonight."

Actually the Hens played a very poor game, disappointing a sellout crowd of 10,300 fans at Fifth Third Field. That throng witnessed the Hens' sixth straight home loss, a defeat that dropped their August record to 1-10 and pushed them four games behind Columbus in the IL's West Division after the Clippers beat Norfolk.

The loss was a team effort: The Hens offense managed just one run for the third time in five days, starter Andy Van Hekken didn't survive the third and allowed seven earned runs, and the defense committed a pair of errors and made several other miscues that didn't show up in the final box.

But the fact that the Hens failed to capitalize on the momentum their win in Charlotte might have created may have been yesterday's biggest failing.

"We're in a situation where we need to play well the rest of the year," Parrish said. "We need to get a little bit of a win streak go

ing. So it's not good to start out with a loss when you're trying to put a win streak together."

Dewayne Wise hit a first-inning home run to get things started for Richmond, which added two more runs in the second.

But Van Hekken lost control - literally - in the third. He walked the first three batters to load the bases, and Mike Hessman quickly unloaded them by slamming Van Hekken's first pitch over the 370 mark in right field for his 16th home run of the season.

"It was one of those situations where I started out [to relieve Van Hekken], but it was the third inning with none out," Parrish said. "You just hate to get into your bullpen that early, and Van Hekken has pitched well for us this season. You think maybe he can get a ground ball, maybe get out of it and we're only down four.

"But obviously we didn't get that."

The Hens offense didn't get much off Richmond starter Chuck Smith, either. They were hitless until Andy Barkett's single in the fourth; that hit moved Rich Gomez, who had led off with a walk, over to third. Gomez came home when Mike DiFelice hit into a double play.

That was the only rally the Hens would have off Smith, who took over the International League lead in strikeouts by fanning five.

"Smith gives you a lot of different looks, and he's a guy who can throw all of his pitches over," Parrish said. "You can't just sit on a pitch against him; if you sit on a fastball, he'll throw a change-up or a breaking ball."

NOTES: Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski was at yesterday's game. The Tigers sent pitcher John Ennis to the Mud Hens yesterday when they activated pitcher Gary Knotts from the disabled list. Pitcher Eric Eckenstahler was sent to the Cubs yesterday to complete the late April trade that sent pitcher Jon Connolly to Chicago in exchange for Double-A pitcher Felix Sanchez. Second baseman Warren Morris returned to the team. He left a week ago to be with his wife when she gave birth to the couple's first children, twin daughters named Amelia and Hettie.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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