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Published: Tuesday, 5/9/2006

Norfolk turns tide on tired Hens staff

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Kevin Hooper catches a pop fly from Chris Basak in front of Jack Hannahan during the fourth inning against Norfolk, which extended its lead to 5-0 in the inning. Kevin Hooper catches a pop fly from Chris Basak in front of Jack Hannahan during the fourth inning against Norfolk, which extended its lead to 5-0 in the inning.
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While the Mud Hens lost to Norfolk 6-4 at Fifth Third Field last night, the root of the loss came Sunday.

Doesn't seem possible, right? Well, it is if you consider Toledo entered last night's game needing to cover nine innings with its bullpen. When Sunday's game took 10 innings, almost six of which were pitched by relievers, it forced Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish to take some chances.

One of those chances backfired, dropping Toledo into a five-run hole that proved to be too much to overcome.

"We wound up having to cover two games back-to-back," Parrish said. "We were just trying to get through with the least amount of damage to our bullpen as we could get.

"We were one hit away from tying it up, so it's good that we're trying. But you also don't enjoy being down five runs, either."

Spot starter Tony Fiore retired the Tides without incident in the first and survived a pair of walks in the second, but he wasn't so fortunate in his other two innings of work.

In the third Ray Navarrette led off with a double to deep center. Fiore nearly stranded him at third by getting a pair of groundouts, but Victor Diaz spoiled that chance when he lined a home run to left, his second home run of the season.

Norfolk broke the game open with three fourth-inning runs. Fiore got the first two outs of the inning before walking Sandy Martinez. Navarrette followed with his second double of the game.

Fiore, who had not pitched more than three innings in a game this season, seemed to tire, walking Lastings Milledge to load the bases. But Parrish took a chance and kept the right-hander in the contest, and Jeff Keppinger foiled that strategy by unloading the bases with a double to the wall in left-center on Fiore's 75th pitch of the night.

That hit was Norfolk's first with runners in scoring position in 15 such at-bats this season.

"We were in a situation where somebody was going to have to throw some innings - there was no way around it," Parrish said. "Really, we got through it pretty good.

"The problem was, we didn't do much [offensively]. Their little left-hander [Evan MacLean] sunk the ball away and changed speeds, and we just didn't do much."

MacLean limited the Hens to three hits and three runs, only one of which was earned, in seven innings to win his first-ever Triple-A start.

"He doesn't have an above-average fastball, but he's got movement on it," Tides interim manager Tony Tijerina said of MacLean. "And it gets complemented by his change-up."

The Mud Hens fell short in their attempt to rebound from a five-run deficit for the second straight night, but it wasn't for lack of effort.

They got one of the runs back in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan Raburn slugged his sixth home run of the season - and his second homer in as many days - off the scoreboard in left.

Toledo added a pair of unearned runs in the sixth on Josh Phelps' two-run double down the left-field line, but Norfolk got one of those runs back in the eighth.

The Hens cut the lead to two in the ninth when Max St-Pierre singled in a run, but David Espinosa hit into a game-ending fielder's choice with the bases loaded.

"Any time you're down five runs, it's tough [to come back]," Raburn said. "When you find yourself in that spot, you've got to keep battling through it. And any time you start battling, you have to think something good is going to happen."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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