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Published: Saturday, 7/5/2008

Hens' bunt backfires; safety squeeze a misnomer

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago, on a rehab assignment, makes a play in the hole at shortstop for the Mud Hens last night. Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago, on a rehab assignment, makes a play in the hole at shortstop for the Mud Hens last night.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

At 54 years old, Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish can still bench press at least 250 pounds.

How do we know? Because Parrish digested Toledo's 1-0 home loss to Columbus last night by blowing off steam in the Hens' weight room.

"That was a little frustration right there," Parrish said.

Toledo has lost four straight - all to the Clippers - and six of the last seven, and now trails Columbus and Louisville by a game for first place in the International League West Division.

The Hens' current place in the standings is not what had Parrish looking for the nearest weight bench. It was the lost opportunities that led to defeat - most notably in the eighth inning when a safety squeeze bunt turned disastrous.

Down a run, Brent Clevlen opened the inning with a single and was standing on third after Max Leon's one-out single. Max St-Pierre was next, and he was to execute a safety squeeze, which means the runner on third base doesn't break for home until the ball is bunted to a satisfactory spot on the field.

Well, St-Pierre did get the bunt down and Clevlen broke for home, but he stopped when Columbus pitcher Jim Ed Warden fielded it between the mound and first-base line. Clevlen got caught in a rundown and was tagged out.

"I felt even if I would've kept going I would've been out," Clevlen said.

Said Parrish: "It was one of those indecisive plays. I could've been more aggressive and told Cleve to try to score."

Tigers infielder Ramon Santiago, with the Hens rehabbing a separated shoulder, hit a soft liner to center with runners at second and third and two outs.

A subplot in the eighth was after Clevlen's single, Parrish pinch hit for designated hitter Fernando Seguignol with Derek Wathan, who bunted Clevlen to second.

Freddy Guzman led off the ninth with a walk, but instead of bunting him to second, Parrish had Timo Perez swing away. Perez hit into a double play.

Parrish said he played for a tie in the eighth because he thought he had more relievers available. He learned in the ninth that neither Francisco Cruceta nor Francis Beltran thought they could pitch if many extra innings were played.

"I took a chance to win it, and ended up getting a double play out of it," Parrish said.

The tone was set in the first inning, when Guzman doubled off former Hens pitcher Dennis Tankersley and was promptly picked off second base. Perez followed with what would've been an RBI single to center.

"Of course the next guy gets a hit right there," Parrish said. "We're playing a little snake-bit right now."

Tankersley, who pitched for Toledo last season, outdueled his former teammate Virgil Vasquez. Both went seven innings, but Tankersley was aided by catcher Luke Montz's RBI single off Vasquez in the fifth.

Vasquez (6-8) allowed seven hits and struck out five. The Hens only mustered three hits off Tankersley (2-2).

"I try to go out and give my team a lot of innings, keep my team in ballgames, win ballgames," Vasquez said. "We just didn't win tonight."

The pitchers' duel took place in front of 11,100 fans - the largest July 4 crowd in Fifth Third Field history.

In honor of Veterans' Night, the Hens wore special, camouflage jerseys that were auctioned off for charity.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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