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Published: Monday, 8/11/2008

Mud Hens not the same; Heart of order goes 0-for-10 with 4 strikeouts

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Kody Kirkland (4) greets Freddy Guzman after they had scored in the second inning. Kody Kirkland (4) greets Freddy Guzman after they had scored in the second inning.
THE BLADE/HERRAL LONG Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The Mud Hens hitters - including the ones who were good enough to be called to the big leagues earlier this year - aren't trying to make outs in key situations.

The pitchers aren't intending to give up runs, and the defenders behind them would rather avoid making costly errors.

But good intentions aren't enough when the team is in a funk. And that's where Toledo is right now.

The Hens lost to Norfolk 7-6 last night for their eighth loss in nine games. They are 10 full games behind Louisville in the International League West with 21 to go.

"You saw tonight how we've been playing around here lately," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said.

Brent Clevlen is an all-star outfielder who enjoyed a tour with the Tigers earlier this year. Jeff Larish has slugged his way to two major league call-ups and performed admirably for Detroit.

So when those two hitters - batting, naturally, in the middle of Parrish's order - get three chances with runners in scoring position in four innings, one of them has to deliver, right?

Not last night. They went 0-for-6 with a runners at second base and 0-for-10 with four strikeouts overall last night.

"If this were April or May, one of those guys would've gotten a big hit," Parrish said.

Michael Hollimon, another former Tiger, is batting .158 (15-for-95) since he was optioned back to Toledo July 7. Larish is hitting .235 (19-for-81) since he returned to the Hens July 21, and Clevlen is at .260 (49-for-188) since the Tigers sent him down June 20.

Eddie Bonine, last night's losing pitcher, went 2-1 for Detroit in June and July. Against the Tides, he allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits and left the game with one out in the fifth because of a sore shoulder.

These players, along with the likes of Matt Joyce, Dane Sardinha and Casey Fossum (all now with the Tigers), and Mike Hessman and Blaine Neal (currently with Team USA at the Olympics), led the Hens to one of the best starts in franchise history earlier this year.

But this is not the Toledo team that stormed out to a 33-17 record by May 24. It's a team that has made 111 roster moves, used five catchers (six, if you count Brandon Inge on a rehab assignment), and is just five games over .500 at 64-59.

"This is different than anything I've experienced in pro ball," said Larish, who, like Clete Thomas, Hollimon and Joyce, was drafted in 2005. "Clete and I have played together the past three years and been on teams that stayed consistent. We haven't had that revolving door like there's been this year."

Thomas, Larish and Hollimon are each in their first full seasons at Triple-A. Parrish believes the IL is starting to catch up with them, and they need to adjust.

Toledo's pitchers were staked to a 4-2 lead last night thanks to Max Leon's sacrifice fly, Freddy Guzman's RBI single and Timo Perez's two-run double in the second inning.

But a Larish throwing error from third base jump-started the Tides' four-run fifth in which Bonine and Ian Ostlund allowed a triple, double, single, and double to four consecutive hitters.

The Hens left runners on base in the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

"I don't have the answers," Parrish said. "It's just one little thing here or there that's making us lose them instead of win them right now."

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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