RICHMOND, Va. - When your team is in the thick of a pennant race, every win is crucial, every loss critical, as you race against a dwindling schedule and the team that's chasing you. When you're a team in a pennant race, you cannot afford to lose a key series on the road, especially one in which you're favored to win.
That's exactly what the Toledo Mud Hens did over the weekend, however.
After a win on Friday and a tough loss on Saturday in which Toledo blew a three-run lead, the Mud Hens' bats were all but silent yesterday as Richmond turned back the Mud Hens 6-1 before a gathering of 4,792 at The Diamond, to take the series 2-1.
Not only did the Hens lose a series to a team with the worst won-loss record in the IL, they saw their lead shrink to just five games over Indianapolis, which pulled out a win.
"We didn't swing the bats well for three games really," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "They [Braves pitching] had to create the runs for us the first game with a bunch of walks, and really we should have won that game Saturday - that's the one that was the killer. Really, we were never in command today."
As a team, the Mud Hens batted just .198 for the series. Marcus Thames, who entered the weekend series batting a team-high .357 with 19 homers, went 0-for-13 with five strikeouts.
"That's a key guy in our lineup, you need him and he took an 'ofer' in this series," said Parrish. "If he doesn't go, then we don't go."
Richmond got on the board in the first inning, slapping three hits and scoring twice against Jason Grilli (10-9).
Mike Hessman led off the Toledo second with a home run, his 27th, over the right-field wall to pull Toledo to within a run, 2-1.
But Toledo would not get closer. Richmond's Anthony Lerew (3-4) allowed only the one run, scattering four hits over six innings. Matt Childers yielded two hits in the last three innings.
"Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other team," Hessman said. "Lerew threw a pretty good game. We had some chances to get some runners on, we just didn't get the big hit when we needed it."
After surrendering back-to-back doubles in the sixth, Grilli was pulled with no outs and replaced by Mark Woodyard, who gave up a two-run double to Tony Pena. Steve Green yielded the Braves' final two runs in the eighth inning.
"He [Grilli] never had it at any time today," said Parrish. "He struggled through the whole game. He's got a lot of innings under his belt and he's had a couple of battles in a row, so he's due for a good one next time out."