There are losses, and then there are losses.
Put the Mud Hens' 8-4 loss to Louisville yesterday in the latter category. Toledo had found a way to overcome a three-run deficit by scoring four times in the bottom of the eighth, much to the delight of 9,374 fans at Fifth Third Field.
But the Bats responded with five runs in the top of the ninth to send the Hens spiraling to their seventh loss in their last eight games. Toledo is 3-20 for August.
"That was tough on us,'' said Hens center fielder Eric Owens. "That's when you win championships - when you come back in the eighth and ninth innings and finish the game out.''
All the signs were promising for the Hens entering the ninth. Before yesterday they were 98-1 when they took a lead into the final inning of a game at Fifth Third Field. On the mound was Lino Urdaneta, who had thrown 52/3 scoreless innings in his four rehab appearances with the Hens.
But Urdaneta gave up a leadoff single to Jermaine Clark, and Ray Olmedo sacrificed Clark to second. Urdaneta got ahead of Jim Chamblee 1-2, but Chamblee stuck his bat out and lined a soft single to right that sent Clark to third.
Urdaneta got Brandon Larson to pop out for the second out before Tim Hummel smashed a line drive to left center.
"When I hit it, I thought it was a double and I was thinking about getting two runs in,'' Hummel said. "Then I saw Owens and he had a pretty good bead on it. I thought, 'Oh, man.' "
Owens made a full-extension leap that left him parallel to the ground, but the ball just eluded his grasp for a double that scored two runs and gave Louisville a 5-4 lead.
"That's why they call it a game of inches,'' said Bats manager Rick Burleson. "Owens came so close to making a great catch to win the game. If he makes the catch, the game is over, we lose, and they make a great comeback. As it turned out, two runs scored on the play and it was a great comeback for us.''
After Hummel's hit, Urdaneta walked Rob Stratton before giving up a three-run homer to Kenny Kelly to finish the scoring.
It looked like we had made a heck of a comeback [before the ninth],'' said Toledo manager Larry Parrish. "But it didn't get done. You could feel it in the dugout that last inning. To have the game won, then to fall way behind like that, it's a heartbreaker.''
The Hens' ninth-inning collapse negated the four-run, eighth-inning rally that had erased a 3-0 Louisville lead.
Guillermo Rodriguez led off the eighth with a home run off Bats reliever Brian Reith, who then walked Greg Norton on four pitches. Chad Alexander followed with a double to left to send Norton to third and knock Reith out of the game.
New Bats pitcher Tom Shearn got Owens to hit a slow roller to shortstop, but Anderson Machado bobbled the ball for an error that allowed Norton to score. Rayner Bautista bunted Alexander and Owens into scoring position, and third baseman Brandon Larson misplayed a Rich Gomez grounder for an error that scored Alexander with the tying run and sent Owens to third.
Warren Morris plated Owens with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly.
"They gave us some help, no doubt,'' Parrish said of his team's rally. "But we got the baserunners on to get it started, and to me that was the key. We got a good bunt down to get the runners over, and Morris did a good job to get the guy in from third to put us ahead.
"They helped, but we took advantage of it. We were right where we wanted to be.''
But the Hens didn't stay there, and as a result fell 6 1/2 games behind Columbus in the IL's West Division. The Clippers' magic number for clinching the division over the Hens stands at nine.
NOTES: Before the game the parent Tigers promoted pitcher Craig Dingman to Detroit. The Mud Hens won't receive a player, though; the Tigers sent pitcher Roberto Novoa to Double-A Erie to make room on the roster for Dingman ... Yesterday's crowd was the Hens' 22nd sellout this season as well as the seventh sellout in the last eight home games.
Contact John Wagner at: email@example.com or 419-724-6481.