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Published: Monday, 6/9/2008

Mud Hens impress most everyone, except Clippers

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
On a rehab assignment from the Tigers, Joel Zumaya puts his all into a pitch in the seventh inning for the Hens.
On a rehab assignment from the Tigers, Joel Zumaya puts his all into a pitch in the seventh inning for the Hens.
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The "Main Man" was watching last night, and the Mud Hens tried their best to impress.

With Detroit manager Jim Leyland and several of his coaches at Fifth Third Field, the Hens did their best to make a good impression in a 5-4 loss to Columbus.

"I don't think you can let that affect you - you still have to go out there and concentrate on what you're doing," said Matt Joyce, who slugged a pair of two-run homers to account for all of the Hens' runs. "You have to lock in and concentrate on the task at hand.

"If you let it in your mind, it's going to affect how you play. For some guys it may be positive, but usually it's going to be negative because most guys will over-try, or try to do too much."

Leyland and his staff came to see pitchers Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya as both continued rehab assignments. Rodney struggled with his control, throwing just 10 of his 23 pitches for strikes, but held the Clippers to a single run on a homer by Ed Rogers.

"I'm feeling very good," Rodney said. "I just need to be a little more consistent."

Zumaya needed just 11 pitches to finish his inning of work and benefited from a double play on a fly ball to right.

"If I wanted to I could rear back and throw really hard," Zumaya said. "As a precaution I don't want to do that now. I've got plenty right now, throwing 97, 98 for strikes, and my breaking ball is pretty good.

"I just want to get hitters out and have fun again."

Several other Hens did their best to snap the team's current losing streak, which was extended to three games.

The most notable of those was Joyce, who got the Hens on the board in the first by launching his ninth home run of the season onto a canvas canopy behind the fence in right field.

He turned that trick again in the eighth, slamming a pitch from Chris Booker onto nearly the same spot.

Another Hen who performed well in front of the Detroit brass was starter Lauren Gagnier, who was making his second start for Toledo since jumping into the rotation from Single-A West Michigan. He allowed six hits and four runs in five innings, which isn't bad for a pitcher who jumped three levels of ball in one week.

Gagnier gave up two runs in the third, one of which scored on a misplayed single by right fielder Freddy Guzman. With one run in, a runner on second and two outs, Alex Escobar lifted a fly ball to right that Guzman seemed to lose in the early evening sky. Then he slipped and the ball dropped for a run-scoring single.

"For a kid who's only pitched at West Michigan, he's kept us in both ball games," Hens' manager Larry Parrish said of Gagnier. "I don't think you could ask for much more. And if we don't slip and fall out there trying to catch a fly ball, it's a 3-2 game - and that's not bad."

The Clippers took the lead for good with a pair of fifth-inning runs. Gagnier walked the leadoff man, then gave up a bunt single to Pete Orr when Derek Wathan was late covering first. Both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch, then came home on a double by Ray Olmedo.

Columbus added a run in the sixth on Rogers' home run off Rodney. That run proved crucial when Joyce's second home run cut the lead to a single run.

NOTES: Rain delayed the start of the game by 47 minutes. Leyland and his staff did not talk to the media last night. RHP Blaine Neal, who left the team at the end of the last road trip to deal with family matters, is expected to rejoin the team tomorrow. Guzman extended his current hitting streak to nine games with a single in the fifth. After today's day off, the Mud Hens will begin a four-game series with Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field starting tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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