SYRACUSE - Starting for the first time in six years, Toledo pitcher Aquilino Lopez wasn't going to go the necessary five innings to get the win, but his three-inning performance in the Mud Hens' 4-3 win over the Syracuse Chiefs at Alliance Bank Stadium last night went down as a personal victory.
In just his second appearance for the Hens since the Detroit Tigers sent the long-time reliever down to Toledo on June 19, Lopez pitched three strong innings and the Mud Hens eventually found enough offense to hand Syracuse starter John Parrish (10-1) his first loss of the season.
Detroit sent Lopez down with the idea of turning him into a starter. Last night was a good start.
"He threw good," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "He threw a lot more fastballs than he usually does. He was really pumping the fastballs."
Lopez started for the first time since the 2002 season when he was with Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League. Since then, Lopez has pitched for Toronto, Colorado, Philadelphia and Detroit in the majors, and Syracuse, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Portland, and Toledo in the minors - all in relief.
In 2007, Lopez recorded 26 saves for Toledo with four short stints in Detroit.
He was 2-1 with no saves and a 2.67 earned-run average in 23 appearances for the Tigers this season before joining the Hens.
Lopez looked at ease as he took the mound against Syracuse last night. He threw 33 out of 49 pitches for strikes, but got burned on his one mistake
- an inside fastball to Chiefs first baseman Hector Luna that caught a little too much of the plate.
With one runner on base in the second inning, Luna drilled the Lopez pitch over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead.
In all, Lopez gave up just three hits in his three innings, while striking out five and walking none.
Parrish said Lopez was on a 50-pitch limit, but that will be extended to around 65 or 70 for his next start.
For a while it looked like Luna's two-run shot would be enough for Syracuse and Parrish.
Only two pitchers in Syracuse's professional baseball history had won 10 games in a row at any point in a season - Willie Smith (1963) and Toledoan Stan Clarke (1985).
Parrish pitched well through the first five innings, shutting out the Hens on just three hits. In the sixth, Parrish's defense hurt him. Third baseman Kevin Melillo failed to come up with Mike Hessman's bouncer down the line, turning it into a double.
Two batters later, first baseman Luna let Fernando Seguig-
nol's pop foul fall. Seguignol then delivered a broken-bat single to center, scoring Hessman. Jackson Melian capped the four-run inning with a two-run double.
A trio of relievers finished for Toledo after Lopez's abbreviated start. Ian Ostlund (2-0) got the win as Francisco Cruceta, Francis Beltran and Blaine Neal followed. Neal picked up his IL-leading 22nd save despite creating a little excitement by giving up a run and letting the tying run advance to third.