It has become an all-too-familiar scene for the Mud Hens recently. The Hens find a way to build a fragile lead and nurse it into the ninth only to see it flattened in a flash.
It happened again yesterday morning at Fifth Third Field as Toledo took a one-run lead into the final inning, only to see Louisville score once in the ninth and twice in the 11th. The late rally allowed the Bats to claim a 5-4 victory in the completion of Tuesday's suspended game.
"That's been our story lately. We've given away too many games in the ninth inning," said Toledo's interim manager Mike Rojas. "We're trying like heck not to do that, but it's been happening to us.
"We should have won the game in the ninth inning."
The Mud Hens led 3-2 in the ninth before Louisville's Joey Votto lined an Aquilino Lopez pitch to center. Vince Blue, playing deep in an effort to prevent extra-base hits, allowed an otherwise catchable ball to fall in front of him, then roll past him to the fence to put the tying run on third.
Votto scored easily when Edwin Encarnacion pounded a double off the fence in left-center.
"We were playing 'no doubles,' " Rojas said to explain Blue's late positioning. "But he should not have left the ball go by him."
The Bats won the game in the 11th when Votto lined a two-out single off Ian Ostlund and Encarnacion drilled his first home run of the season off the scoreboard in left.
The Mud Hens cut the lead to a single run when Mike Hessman hammered his eighth home run of the year to lead off the bottom of the inning, but Louisville's Brad Salmon struck out the next three hitters to claim the save.
The result marked the fourth time the Toledo bullpen has blown a save in eight days, with three of those four near-victories turning into losses.
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Those two late hiccups ruined an otherwise solid performance by the bullpen, which was pressed into action when Tuesday's game was suspended in the top of the second.
Corey Hamman, Preston Larrison, Vic Darensbourg, Lopez and Ostlung combined to allow just three runs in 91/3 innings, although each was challenged. The Bats had runners in every inning after the fourth, but the bullpen managed to strand eight baserunners.
"I thought [the bullpen] pitched well," Rojas said. "I thought Hamman did a nice job getting out of a couple of jams. Lopez had a chance to close out the game, but we coughed it up defensively."
Before the ninth the Bats' only runs were scored Tuesday off Yorman Bazardo. In the second inning Bazardo walked Aaron Herr, who went to second on a groundout by Mark Bellhorn. Mike Edwards blooped a double down the right-field line that scored Herr. Chris Dickerson hit a grounder up the middle that second baseman Jack Hannahan stopped with a fine backhand effort; but his throw to third base to try and pick off Edwards was wild, though, allowing Edwards to score.
The Mud Hens used one big swing to flip that two-run deficit into a one-run lead.
Timo Perez started the fourth-inning rally with a double down the right-field line before Ryan Raburn and Hannahan drew back-to-back walks off Louisville's Tom Shearn to load the bases.
Hessman unloaded them by doubling to the wall in right-center.
"In that at-bat I was just trying to get the run in," Hessman said. "He got two strikes on me, but luckily I was able to put something in play the other way, which is a good sign for me."
The Hens had a chance to add a run in the fifth, but Chris Shelton, who singled with two outs, was thrown out at the plate on a double by Perez. Toledo also stranded runners in scoring position in three of the last five innings.
"I think we were trying to [hit five-run homers] earlier, but we haven't been doing that as much as of late," Hessman said. "We've lost a couple of tough games and everybody wants to get the job done. But if we can stay within ourselves, we'll turn this thing around."
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