The grounds crew prepares Fifth Third Field for the Mud Hens bid for a third straight Governors Cup. The Hens clinched a spot in the International League playoffs with a win Sunday at Indianapolis and will play either Richmond or Durham in the fi rst round. As West Division champs, the Hens will host games three through five beginning Sept. 7.
LOUISVILLE - Toledo nearly turned the faces in Louisville's pink jerseys red from embarrassment.
The Mud Hens came back from a 9-1 deficit, but fell a run short in a 9-8 loss last night before 7,150 at Louisville Slugger Field.
The Bats, who wore pink jerseys to help raise funds for a local breast cancer awareness organization, pounced on Toledo starter Anastacio Martinez (5-7),, and the Mud Hens found themselves trailing 8-0 after allowing four runs each in the second and third innings. The teams exchanged runs in the fourth, before Toledo mounted its come back.
Louisville starter Matt Maloney (1-1), who struck out 10 batters, mowed down six of the first nine he faced. But he grew tired in his fifth and final inning. Maloney started that inning by walking his first two batters. Dane Sardinha, batting ninth, cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left for a 9-4 score.
"We started chipping away - that's what we've been doing all year," said Toledo third baseman Mike Hessman. "Our team has a lot of fight. We don't just sit there and roll over the rest of the night. We got it close and had some chances."
Toledo held close partly due to reliever Jason Karnuth, who entered in the fifth inning and allowed one hit with three strikeouts in three innings.
"He shut the door for three innings," Toledo manager Mike Rojas said. "He did a real nice job mixing his pitches and using his sinker."
With Louisville's production stumped, the Mud Hens cut the lead to two in the seventh, helped by two Bats errors. The first, a wild throw by third baseman Aaron Herr, allowed Sardinha to reach first. Louisville's left fielder Joey Votto committed the second error when he over-pursued a ball rolling towards him. That allowed Sardinha to score and Erick Almonte to take second on his single.
Almonte, who was 4-for-5, hit the first of four consecutive singles that loaded the bases for the Hessman. But the IL home run and RBI leader could only deliver a sacrifice fly.
"I was trying to get the run in anyway possible," he said. "I got ahead in the count, but he came back. [The full count pitch] it was borderline. It might have been a little low, and I got the wrong end."
Toledo's Andres Torres hit a two-out triple in the eighth then scored on Almonte's single to make the score 9-8.
And in the ninth, Hessman again came to the plate with two out and a chance to tie the game. But Louisville reliever Marcus McBeth notched his 12th save by striking him out on three pitches. Hessman finished the game 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.