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Published: Sunday, 7/6/2008

Clippers bruise Hens - again

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mike Hessman is congratulated by Jeff Larish (11), Freddy Guzman (17), and Timo Perez after his fifth-inning home run. Mike Hessman is congratulated by Jeff Larish (11), Freddy Guzman (17), and Timo Perez after his fifth-inning home run.
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The Mud Hens do not have to look at the Columbus Clippers again until Aug. 27, during the regular season's final week.

Even then, the reunion will be too soon for Toledo.

The Clippers beat the Hens again last night, this time 6-5. Toledo and Columbus played each other consecutively for six straight days - four games in Columbus and two in Toledo - and the Clippers won the last five.

While this six-game affair catapulted Columbus into first place in the International League West - ahead of Louisville and the Hens - it staggered Toledo.

The Hens' five-game losing skid is their longest this season. They've lost seven of their last eight games and are two games out of first place for the first time since April 15, when they were 2 1/2 games out.

Toledo outfielder Brent Clevlen was again involved in the play that ultimately decided the game.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, Columbus catcher Luke Montz hit a looping liner to center field off Zach Miner that Clevlen dove for and missed. The ball rolled past Clevlen and allowed three Clippers to score. Montz was thrown out at home going for an inside-the-park home run.

Clevlen, who was one of three Hens selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game last week, appeared to hurt his right elbow or wrist on the dive, but he stayed in the game.

In the Hens' 1-0 loss to Columbus Friday night, indecision prevented Clevlen from scoring the tying run from third on a safety squeeze bunt. He got caught in a rundown and was tagged out.

All three runs on Montz's triple - and all of Columbus' runs, period - were charged to Toledo starter Lauren Gagnier (3-3), who exited the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth. Miner, who will start Tuesday for the Hens, gave up just the one hit and struck out three in two innings.

Mike Hessman, another IL all-star and one of two Toledo players under consideration to play for Team USA in the 2008 Beijing Olympics (closer and all-star Blaine Neal is the other), hit a three-run homer off Clippers starter Tyler Clippard in the bottom of the fifth. Hessman's blast - his 28th this year - cut Toledo's deficit to 6-4.

The Hens pulled to within one in the ninth on Timo Perez's one-out, RBI double off Brian

Sanches. With two outs and Perez still on second, Sanches walked Jeff Larish and got Clevlen to fly to center for the game's final out.

Ramon Santiago, a Detroit Tigers infielder rehabbing a separated shoulder with the Hens, went 0-for-4, including a strikeout with two on and two out in the second inning.

The Hens' painful six-game series with Columbus is not their last. Toledo plays the Clippers six consecutive times to end the season and also plays Indianapolis for six straight July 29-Aug. 3.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are coming to town tonight for the start of a four-game set. The Yankees, who are making their lone trip to Toledo this season, split a four-game series with the Hens in Moosic, Pa., June 19-22.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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