INDIANAPOLIS - Last season the Mud Hens won only three of their first eight games on the road en route to a second consecutive International League championship. So far this year, Toledo has won two of seven on the road after falling 7-3 to the Indianapolis Indians yesterday.
Interim manager Mike Rojas believes the Hens can rebound again.
"We didn't get into a rhythm, but I think we will," he said. "We were up and down, up and down. But I have confidence in everybody in this locker room. We just have to stay positive and keep working hard every day."
Toledo starter Virgil Vasquez improved on his April 6 outing in which he went only 32/3 innings in an 8-2 loss at Louisville. Yesterday Vasquez gave up four earned runs over six innings. Though he yielded 12 hits, he walked only one batter and 52 of his 84 pitches were strikes.
"I thought he did a good job," said Rojas. "He gave us six innings. We just didn't score any runs for him. We misplayed that ball in left and gave them an extra out in the first. We should have had a 1-1 tie."
Vasquez went to the mound with a 1-0 lead, but gave up a one-out triple to Nyjer Morgan and then hit the next batter. Ryan Doumit hit a high fly just inside the left field line, but Ryan Raburn dropped the ball in foul ground for an error.
Two pitches later Doumit singled to right field to score Morgan, and one out later Brian Bixler tripled to left center to give the Indians a 3-1 lead.
The Indians added three runs over the fourth and fifth innings on five hits and a walk to push the lead to 6-1.
Toledo scratched back for a pair of runs in the sixth. Kevin Hooper, who had doubled and scored in the first, and Timo Perez led off with successive singles. Chris Shelton singled to score Hooper and move Perez to second base.
Mike Hessman then hit a high pop fly to second base and the infield fly rule was invoked. But the ball was not caught.
Perez ran to third and was easily beaten by the throw, but third baseman Russ Johnson stepped on the bag rather than tag Perez, and he was safe.
"It was a weird play," Rojas said.
Perez scored on a fielder's choice.
The Hens loaded the bases in the ninth on singles by Brent Clevlen, Dane Sardinha and Hooper, whose single was an infield hit, but Perez lined to third base to end the rally and the game.
"The ball's just not bouncing our way right now," said Rojas. "We'll be OK once we get home and get to the home opener. It's been a tough road trip."
In the home opener tomorrow at 5:30, Dennis Tankersley (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will pitch for the Hens against the Durham Bulls' Andrew Sonnanstine (1-0, 1.50).
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