The Mud Hen offense spent nine innings teasing a record crowd at Fifth Third Field.
They had no trouble getting runners on base in their home opener against Columbus, producing at least one baserunner in each inning.
But actually bringing those runners home? Aye, that was the rub.
Will Rhymes led off for the Mud Hens last night with a triple, but became the first of many runners Toledo stranded.
Toledo finished the opener with 10 hits and a pair of walks, but had just one hit with a runner in scoring position in dropping a 2-1 decision to the Clippers before a crowd of 13,100.
That attendance broke the previous record for Fifth Third Field, a crowd of 12,750 which saw the Hens' home opener last year.
"Early in the ball game you feel as if you'll get a lot more chances," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said of his team's early offensive failures. "We had plenty of opportunities. It seemed we had guys out there every inning. We just couldn't hit a ball into the gap.
"We got hits, it wasn't like we were totally shut down. We just didn't get them when we needed them."
The Mud Hens seemed poised to score in the bottom of the first when Will Rhymes opened the frame by tripling to right-center. But he was stranded on third when Columbus starter Tomo Ohka retired Ryan Raburn, Brent Clevlen and Ryan Roberson on two shallow pop outs and a strikeout.
"When you've got a runner on third base and they play the infield back, all you have to do is hit the ball on the ground and you score a run," Parrish said. "When we didn't get the runner in it was disappointing, but I thought we'd get more chances."
The Hens wasted no time getting a second chance as Mike Hessman walked and Wilkin Ramirez singled to lead off the second. But Clete Thomas and Brent Dlugach struck out, and Dane Sardinha flied out.
Toledo's offensive struggles continued and they stranded at least one runner in every inning but the third. Every member of the
Mud Hens' lineup had at least one at-bat with a runner in scoring position, but the Hens managed just one hit in 12 at-bats in those situations.
That lone hit with a runner in scoring position came with two outs in the eighth, when Ramirez singled up the middle to drive home Clevlen from second.
Meanwhile, Columbus scored a run in the third thanks to a little help from the Hens.
Wilson Valdez started that rally by stroking a single up the middle, and center fielder Raburn allowed the ball to bounce off his glove. By the time Raburn retrieved it,
Valdez had hustled to third.
Valdez then trotted home on a single by Michael Brantley.
Columbus added run in the sixth when Matt LaPorta, one of Cleveland's top prospects, stroked a home run just to the right of the left-field foul pole.
But those were the only runs
allowed by Toledo starter Ron
Chiavacci, who gave up just five hits and one earned run in 52/3 solid innings, and the Hens bullpen, which surrendered just one hit the rest of the way.
"If I go out there and pitch like that - just like all of the other starters have been doing - I know we're going to score runs," Chiavacci said. "We're going to go out there and throw strikes, and if we give up a run we're going to try and keep it to a minimum.
"This was just one of those games out of the norm [for the offense]."
Parrish also isn't worried about an offense that entered yesterday's game with the second-highest run total in the International League.
"We got a bunch of hits, but no one could get a big one with runners on base," he said. "We're going to look at it that we didn't get the job done [yesterday], and [today] we'll come back at them."
NOTES: The Mud Hens are expecting another sellout for today's game, which also starts at 5:30 p.m. Toledo will send left-hander Lucas French to the mound to face Clippers right-hander Kirk Saarloos. Despite scoring only one run, the Hens saw their team batting average rise from .241 before the game to .247 after. Toledo has a 2.48 team ERA, third-best in the International League. Reliever Fu-Te Ni retired all four batters he faced. In three appearances covering 61/3 innings, Ni has allowed just four hits and one run for a 1.42 ERA.
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