DURHAM, N.C. - Marcus Thames wouldn't let the Mud Hens lose their season opener yesterday. They didn't win, either, but that's a story for another day.
Unable to take sufficient advantage of five Durham errors, Toledo found itself trailing 5-4 and down to its last out of the game. That's when Thames capped a 5-for-5 afternoon with a majestic solo home run off Bulls closer Lee Gardner.
After Jason Karnuth, the fifth Toledo pitcher, worked around trouble in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings, the skies opened, bringing thunder, lightning and plenty of rain.
The deluge led to the game being suspended after a delay of 54 minutes. It will resume tonight at 6, followed by the regularly scheduled nine-inning game.
GERRY BROOME / AP Enlarge
"Marcus had a great day," said Hens manager Larry Parrish. "He gives us a chance, anyway."
Fittingly, given Thames' heroics, statistics from the game count. He had promised not to pout following a controversial demotion by the Tigers after an outstanding spring training in which he had four homers and 14 runs batted in.
"There's nothing you can do about it," Thames reiterated yesterday. "All you can do is go out and do your best and enjoy yourself."
His actions supported those words. He backed up a first-inning double with singles in the third, fifth and seventh innings.
Unfortunately, his teammatesweren't having similar success, and a 2-0 Toledo lead became a 5-4 deficit when Earl Snyder doubled home pinch-runner Paul Hoover in the last of the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, Curtis Granderson struck out and Ryan Raburn grounded weakly to second for the first two outs against Gardner, a 30-year-old right-hander and Durham's all-time saves leader with 62.
With a storm brewing and the wind blowing briskly out toward left field, Thames said he was just looking for a pitch to hit hard.
He worked the count to 1-1 before sending the next offering high into the sky. Bulls left fielder Jeff Deardorff never moved, and the crowd of 5,047 stood stunned.
"It was a slider that stayed up," said Thames.
"I didn't hit it great, and if the wind hadn't been blowing out like it was, it probably would have been an out."
The Hens, who lost all six times they played here last year, thus will have two chances to end that streak tonight.
Parrish indicated that either Karnuth or lefty Vic Darensbourg would start the suspended game.
Hens right-hander Sean Douglass (5-6, 4.75 ERA last year with Syracuse) will then take the ball for what now amounts to a nightcap.
"Rain and extra innings on opening day," said Parrish. "I hope this isn't a sign of things to come."35.99527 -78.89601 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Mud-Hens!
Marcus Thames wouldn't let the Mud Hens lose their season opener yesterday. They didn't win, either, but that's a story for another day. Literally.