Had the Mud Hens been in a pennant race, last night's 4-2 loss to Louisville in 11 innings would have hurt much more than it did.
Fortunately, Toledo already has clinched its spot in the playoffs by winning the International League's West Division title this past weekend. So the only damage last night's loss caused was it allowed Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to claim the best record in the IL by a game over the Hens.
Still, Toledo's third straight loss to the Bats in as many days had to sting.
"You know in the back of your mind that you've clinched," Toledo manager Mike Rojas said. "But it's still gratifying to win close games like this.
"We need to get on a little bit of a roll and start playing a little better."
Louisville's game-winning rally off Toledo's Aquilino Lopez began when Mark Bellhorn singled and Ryan Hanigan sacrificed Bellhorn to second. Lopez got Jeff Bannon on a sharp groundout to Mike Hessman at third for two outs, then got ahead of the next batter, Luis Bolivar, 0-2.
Then Bolivar was able to check his swing on a close call, and on the next pitch he grounded a single up the middle. Bellhorn scored, and Bolivar raced to second on the throw in from the outfield.
Lopez walked Anderson Machado on a 3-2 pitch, then got ahead of Paul Janish 0-2. The next pitch was called a ball, drawing protests from the Toledo dugout, and Janish - hitless in his previous 16 at-bats against the Hens this season - blooped an RBI single.
But the Mud Hens couldn't complain much, since they had chances to score before the Bats' winning rally. They put their leadoff man on base in the eighth, ninth and 10th, yet failed to score.
"We had our opportunities," Rojas said. "We had a runner on second base with one out several times, but we couldn't get that big hit. We've had some tough luck the last couple of days. But we need to come back [today] and keep playing."
The Bats broke on top with a pair of second-inning runs off Toledo starter Dennis Tank-
ersley. Bellhorn drew a one-out walk, then moved to second on a single by Hanigan.
A two-out double by Bolivar scored Bellhorn and moved Hanigan to third, and Machado walked to load the bases. Janish hit a hard grounder to Hessman, who bobbled the ball, then failed to tag Bolivar sliding into third as Hanigan scored.
Tankersley held Louisville in check otherwise, allowing six hits and walking three in six innings. The Bats moved runners into scoring position in four of his seven innings, but the right-hander allowed Louisville just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"He mixed his pitches very well," Rojas said of Tankersley. "He got hit a little bit early in the game, but he settled down and competed, just like he always does. He's done that all year."
The problem was the Hens weren't doing much scoring against the Bats. They managed just six hits all night, and even their two-run rally in the fourth almost didn't happen.
With two outs Chris Shelton singled, and Jason Perry followed with a high line drive to the wall in right-center. The ball bounced on the track and a fan touched it, causing the umpires to rule the hit a ground-rule double.
Perry was touching second and headed for third when the call was made, and Shelton was forced to return to third.
But Hessman made the play moot when he doubled over the head of Machado in left to score both runners.
The two RBIs give Hessman 100 this season, making him the fifth Toledo player in the modern era to reach that total.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.24.14675 120.1573