Even though it was only early July, there was a playoff atmosphere surrounding Fifth Third Field.
The Mud Hens, who had lost their first five games this month to fall out of first place in the International League's West Division, needed a victory. But Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Alberto Gonzalez became the most unlikely of heroes, hitting his first home run of the season to give the Yankees a 5-4 win in 12 innings.
"We just can't get [a win] right now," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We got out of some jams, but we went seven innings without scoring.
"And of all the guys to give up a game-winning homer to. We're just got to pick ourselves up, because nobody is going to feel sorry for us."
Gonzalez led off the top of the 12th by slamming the first pitch by Hens reliever Francis Beltran off the left-field scoreboard to give the Yankees the lead. The home run was just the 12th of his six-year professional career and his second in the last two seasons.
"He's got decent power," Yankees manager Dave Miley said. "But he's been at the big-league level and didn't have a lot of playing time."
The crowd of 9,515 was still settling into its seats as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre struck for three first-inning runs off Toledo starter Yorman Bazardo. Back-to-back singles by Matt Carson and Gonzalez set up Juan Miranda, who doubled both home with a long drive to the base of the wall in straight-away center.
Miranda took third on a groundout, then came home when Ben Broussard beat out a grounder to the hole at shortstop. Two more singles loaded the bases, but Bazardo escaped further damage by getting J.D. Closser to hit into a double play.
And that was the story for the Mud Hens most of the night as Bazardo and four relievers allowed 16 hits, only to be bailed out by five double plays.
Toledo managed just one unearned run off Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Ross Ohlendorf. In the first Timo Perez singled with one out, then moved to second when Yankees right fielder Greg Porter circled, then dropped Mike Hessman's fly ball.
Perez came home on a single to left by Fernando Seguignol.
In the fifth the Hens scored three times to take a 4-3 lead, a rally that was set up by a Perez single and a Hessman's double. Both scored when Seguignol greeted reliever Steven White by lining a triple to the deepest part of center.
How rare was Seguignol's triple? It was his first since
Aug. 28, 2003, and is just his
second since 1999.
Seguignol then came home with the go-ahead run when Erick Almonte doubled to center.
But that lead didn't survive the second batter in the top of the next inning as Cody Ransom tripled to center, then came home on Broussard's bloop hit to center beyond the reach of a drawn-in infield.
And the Mud Hen offense wasn't able to mount another rally, collecting just three hits in the final seven innings.
"Our hitters aren't being aggressive when they need to be," Parrish said. "If a pitcher throws a handing breaking ball, we take that. On the next pitch the pitcher seems to make a pitch - and we swing at it."
Toledo seemed doomed to defeat when Scranton/Wilkes-Barre loaded the bases with none out in the ninth. But Hessman started a 1-2-3 double-play with a catch, spin and throw to the plate, and closer Blaine Neal got a flyout.
"That was a great play,"
Parrish said of Hessman's double play. "When you make a play like that, you're supposed to win those games. But we didn't get a guy on base until we hit the catcher's glove [with two outs in the 12th]."