FORT MILL, S.C. - Mike Hessman keeps knocking them out of the park here, just like he's doing at most of the International League ballparks he visits.
He hit one in each game of last night's doubleheader split against the Charlotte Knights, raising his International League-leading total to 16. He's hit four in three games at cozy Knights Stadium.
"He's hitting like he doesn't want to be a Mud Hen any more," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said after the second game, a 5-3 Toledo victory. Hessman and Clete Thomas each hit solo homers in that win, the eighth in the last 11 games for the Mud Hens.
And his monster solo home run off the bottom of the scoreboard in center field, an elevation of about 40 feet, gave Toledo its only run in a 4-1 loss in the first game.
"He's really improved as a hitter in the last few years," Parrish said. "Before, he was a lot more of an all-or-nothing type of hitter."
Hessman's hit was one of only three given up by Charlotte starting pitcher Lance Broadway (5-1) in the first game.
The other two were singles by Erick Almonte and Dane Sardinha.
"We pitched out of a couple of jams ourselves, and you keep thinking that if you can keep the other team from scoring, you have a chance," Parrish said. "But we couldn't get anything going against him."
Broadway, who entered the game second in the IL in earned run average (1.10) retired 17 of the last 18 Toledo batters.
Virgil Vasquez (2-3) took the loss for Toledo, giving up four runs and nine hits in five innings.
Pitching was key for the Mud Hens in their victory in the second game.
Left-hander Casey Fossum (1-0) scattered three hits and allowed only one run in six innings in his first start of the season.
His previous long outing had been four innings.
"It was pretty exciting, and I felt really comfortable," Fossum said. "I was happy with the number of pitches I threw  and I had a couple of good sinker balls going."
The Mud Hens staked him to a 5-1 lead after six innings, sparked by the Hessman and Thomas home runs, an RBI single by Jackson Melian and a sacrifice fly by Nick Trzesniak.
NOTES: The Mud Hens were the home team for the second game, a make-up of a rained out game in Toledo on April 10 Detroit Tigers left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis will make the second of two scheduled major league rehab starts for the Mud Hens tomorrow against the Knights Starting pitchers for today's 2:15 p.m. game are left-hander Wes Whisler (5-1, 1.77) for Charlotte and right-hander Yorman Bazardo (1-1, 5.14).
MILWAUKEE - Jason Isringhausen got his wish.
After blowing his major league leading fifth save on Friday night in a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals' embattled reliever will no longer close games, manager Tony La Russa said yesterday.
"He's still prepared to pitch important innings, but for a while we'll try to keep him out of the ninth inning," La Russa said.
"If we're playing well, there's still going to be games where you can't cherry pick his situations because if we're playing well, you need your bullpen."
The Cardinals manager said the closing duties will be split between Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer, and that he wouldn't shy from using a left-hander in the role against certain lineups.
"We'll mix and match," La Russa said. "I think all things, everyone rested, Franklin and Springer are the guys that match up the best."
Franklin, who had been the setup man, said he hadn't been told what his new role might be, but the right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 19 appearances this season.
"He gets righties and lefties out, he's very quick off the mound, so he's tough to run on," La Russa said. "He gives you a lot as a guy that's pitching important innings in games."
Isringhausen, who has four blown save opportunities in his last seven appearances and is 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA, said he met with La Russa and agreed he needed to be pulled from the role.
"It needed to be done," he said. "It's a mental break more than anything."
Isringhausen, who leads the NL with 11 saves and is eight saves shy of 300 for his career, was clearly upset after Friday's game, putting all the blame on himself.
"I'm just getting sick of embarrassing myself and letting my team down," he said Friday night.
"We should be five more wins in the win column in my mind, so we should be ahead in first place even more.
"But they can't keep sending me out there when I'm pitching the way I'm pitching.
"We're going to have to figure out some kind of remedy. I'm sure that remedy will give me some time off and get somebody in there that can do a better job right now. ... I'm just pitching like a second grader."
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