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Published: Monday, 7/24/2006

It's homer or nothing for struggling Hens

Dustan Mohr makes a catch before crashing into the wall, but the Hens seem to have their backs against the wall lately. Dustan Mohr makes a catch before crashing into the wall, but the Hens seem to have their backs against the wall lately.

When a team is going bad, losses like the Mud Hens' 4-3 defeat at the hands of Durham last night are the product.

Toledo starter Jordan Tata struggled, the Hens' offense sputtered, and the result was the team's fourth defeat in its last five games as well as its eighth in its last 10 decisions.

Tata had problems with his command all night, tying his season high with four walks and constantly pitching his way into trouble as he saw a personal four-game winning streak come to an end.

"There were some innings where I threw OK, and there were some innings where I threw like crap," Tata said. "The times I have success are when I'm not nibbling around the [strike] zone. I got into trouble when I didn't attack the hitters."

Durham starter Chris Seddon had retired the first seven Hens in order before Mike Rabelo slammed a 3-2 pitch off the left-field scoreboard for his first home run with Toledo and seventh this season.

But that lead was short-lived as the Bulls scored twice in the top of the fourth. Former Hen Kevin Witt blooped a single to left, and Tata threw a wild pitch that sent Witt to second before he walked Darnell McDonald one out later.

Hens center fielder Dustan Mohr made a fine running catch in deep right-center to rob Shawn Riggans of a hit, but Wes Bankston followed with a two-out single to left that scored Witt. Luis Rivas gave Durham the lead with a single to center that plated McDonald.

"Once they get something going, he's having trouble stopping it without running his pitch-count high," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said of Tata, who was in Single-A last season. "But that's sort of the growing pains of a young pitcher."

Tata escaped further damage when he got B.J. Upton on a called third strike. Upton argued with home-plate ump Joshua Carlisle after the pitch and was ejected.

In the fifth the Bulls tacked on two more runs as Delmon Young drew a one-out walk and Witt slammed his International League-leading 25th home run into the Roost. The two RBIs pushed his season total to 70, two in front of Toledo's Ryan Raburn atop the IL leaderboard.

But the Hens got those runs back in the bottom of the fifth when Ryan Ludwick lined a one-out double and Mike Hessman pounded his 19th homer of the year off the left-field scoreboard. Hessman moved into sole possession of second place on the IL home run charts with his shot.

Both rallies typified the Mud Hens' offense of late. While Toledo had five extra-base hits, they finished with only six hits total and were 1-for-5 when batting with runners in scoring position.

"We didn't do much offensively besides pop one every once in a while," Parrish said. "Stringing the hits together, right now, has been our problem."

NOTES: RHP John Ennis has been recalled from Double-A Erie and will join the Mud Hens today. Ennis, who had a 1.50 ERA in 11 appearances with Toledo earlier this season, was 2-3 with a 3.08 ERA and a team-leading 13 saves with the SeaWolves. The Hens will need to make a roster move to open a space for Ennis. Durham's Darnell McDonald went 0-for-3 with a walk to end a 27-game hit streak, the longest in the IL and tied for the longest in minor-league baseball this season. Last night's crowd of 9,961 at Fifth Third Field was the Hens' seventh sellout in a row. It also was the team's 18th full house this season and the 125th in the five-year history of the ballpark.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.

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