Bowling Green native Andy Tracy watches from the Lehigh Valley dugout last night at Fifth Third Field.
Jeremy Wadsworth Enlarge
Andy Tracy has tried to limit the number of tickets he asks for as he and his teammates from Lehigh Valley play at Fifth Third Field this week.
"I've been down in my requests," Tracy said. "Mike Cervenak is from nearby, and Joey Hammand has some family in Toledo, so we've all tried to limit our requests to 20 tickets."
Tracy's fans in the stands had a lot to cheer for last night as the Bowling Green native slammed a three-run homer to lead the IronPigs to victory over the Mud Hens.
The victories have been few and far between for Lehigh Valley, whose 5-28 record is the worst in professional baseball. Tracy said he and the rest of the IronPigs are staying as positive as possible.
"I know it's a clich, but it's true. We're with these same guys day after day," Tracy said. "There's been no fights, there's been no arguments, and that's been amazing."
Tracy's goal isn't to stay in Triple-A, though. Like every other player at this level, he'd like to earn a call-up to the majors.
"He could be a left-handed bat off the bench, a pinch-hitter who occasionally would play first base for you," Lehigh Valley manager Dave Huppert said. "And he could do that. Nothing would surprise him at the plate, because he's been around the game a long time and seen just about every pitch.
"He can drive the ball out of the ball park and win a game for you off the bench."
How long will the 34-year-old Tracy continue to pursue that dream?
"As long as my body lets me do it, I want to keep playing the game," he said. "I'm getting up there in age, but I think I can still help someone in the big leagues. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't still be here."
Might a return to Toledo, with the Fifth Third Field crowd cheering for the local boy, be in Tracy's future?
"I would love to play in Toledo," Tracy admitted. "Ultimately it comes down to Detroit, if they like me or not. Who knows? It's like any other job in that it comes down to who likes you."
BIZARRE FOR BAZARDO: Last season Yorman Bazardo was one of the better pitchers in the International League, posting a 10-6 record and a 3.75 ERA for the Mud Hens. He then went to Detroit and was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 11 appearances with the Tigers.
This year, though, things have been very different.
Bazardo began the season in the Detroit bullpen and struggled mightily, surrendering five walks and seven hits in three innings that resulted in eight earned runs, good for a bloated 24.00 ERA.
In his first two starts for the Mud Hens he allowed nine hits and four walks in nine innings. Things were even worse for Bazardo last night, as the 23-year-old right-hander gave up seven hits and three walks that resulted in four earned runs in five innings, as well as his first loss of the season.
Yet Hens manager Larry Parrish was encouraged with Bazardo's effort.
"I thought he threw better tonight," Parrish said. "I thought he had better velocity. He didn't command the ball better, and that's what got him in trouble in the fifth.
"Hopefully in a couple of starts we'll see the command improve along with the velocity."
THREE-DOT DATA: Lehigh Valley has won five games this season, and two of those victories have come in six games against the Mud Hens. The IronPigs haven't beaten any other IL team more than once this season. Toledo outfielder Jackson Melian, who entered the game in a 3-for-23 funk, collected three hits last night, including his second home run of the season. Both home runs have come off Lehigh Valley's Brian Mazone. Former Mud Hen John Ennis relieved Mazone with two outs in the eighth and finished off the game, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one. Jeff Larish and Erick Almonte both saw five-game hit streaks end last night.
TONIGHT: Ron Chiavacci, who won 12 games for Toledo last season, will start for the IronPigs. Chiavacci, who is 1-3 this season, will face Jeremy Johnson (4-0) at 6:30 p.m.