DURHAM, N.C. Lee Gardner saved a franchise-record 77 games for the Durham Bulls over the last five seasons.
But given the chance to record his first save for the Toledo Mud Hens, the veteran right-hander couldn t close the door on his old team last night. Gardner walked the bases full in the ninth inning, then watched from the bench as Mark Woodyard surrendered a walk-off grand slam home run to Durham shortstop B.J. Upton.
That was a tough one, Toledo manager Larry Parrish said, after watching the Mud Hens blow a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning, losing 5-4 in the first game of an eight-game road trip.
Parrish wanted to see Gardner, the fourth pitcher of the night for the Mud Hens, close out the game as he had done so many times over the years at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. But the three-time IL all-star, signed by the Detroit organization as a free agent last December, is recovering from a back injury and that forced Parrish to restrict his pitches.
We were behind the eight-ball, Parrish said. It was one of those moves we didn t want to make, but we had to. We took him out more for health [reasons]. We didn t want to see him go out the first time out and lose him.
Woodyard entered with two outs and the bases loaded. His first pitch to Upton was an inside fastball that Tampa Bay s 2002 first-round draft pick (the second pick in the entire draft) drove over the Blue Monster in left field.
They ve got two guys at the top of the order who can definitely leave the ballpark on you, Parrish said. We didn t want to get in that situation, where we turned the lineup around. We got out of the eighth, getting through the middle of the order, and it looked like we were in pretty good shape going into the ninth.
The disastrous finish ruined a strong starting performance by right-hander Colby Lewis, who allowed just one unearned run in six innings. He surrendered six hits and three walks, while striking out four.
The Mud Hens took advantage of some sloppy defense by the Bulls to build a 3-1 lead.
Second baseman Kevin Hooper scored Toledo s first run in the fourth inning when Upton made an impressive backhanded pickup on a hot grounder in the hole, but heaved the ball over first baseman Kevin Whitt and into the Bulls dugout. Third baseman Jack Hannahan followed with an RBI single up the middle.
In the seventh, former Bull Josh Phelps reached on an error by Durham third baseman Brent Butler, then scored all the way from first when right-fielder Alex Gomez doubled off the left-field wall. With two outs, shortstop Don Kelly drove Gomez home with the second unearned run of the inning and the third of the game.
Toledo catcher Brian Peter-son, whose passed ball set up Durham s unearned run in the second inning, more than made up for that miscue when he launched a 3-2 pitch from reliever Chad Orvella over the Blue Monster very near the spot where Upton would hit his game-winning blast.
NOTES: The same two teams will play the second game in their four-game series tonight at 5. Left-hander Lance Davis (0-1, 5.40 ERA) is Toledo s scheduled starter. The game was Durham s 2006 home opener and drew a franchise record crowd of 11,060. Upton s home run was his first career grand slam and his first walk-off homer.