The Mud Hens were struggling against more than just Louisville at Fifth Third Field last night.
The bullpen was stretched thin, the starting pitching has hit a rut, and the offense is struggling. And all three played roles in last night's 7-4 loss to the Bats.
The setback was Toledo's fourth straight and third in a row in its current homestand. The loss also dropped the Hens into a tie for first with the Bats in the International League's West Division.
"[This kind of losing streak] is going to happen when you play 144 games," said Hens starter Lucas French. "We're not playing terribly, things just aren't going our way."
French didn't pitch poorly, giving up four earned runs in six innings. In fact, covering six innings was important for a bullpen that had only three available pitchers after covering 10 innings the previous two nights.
And it didn't help that one of the rested pitchers, Scott Williamson, was sent home before the game because of illness.
"[French] gave us innings, and we needed that," said Hens manager Larry Parrish. "He kept us in the ball game. He's showing signs of being pretty good here. He just needs to cut down on the mistakes. His stuff looks pretty good."
Jonny Gomes got the Bats on the board by slamming his first home run of the season in the second inning. Louisville scored twice off French in the third when
Chris Valaika homered, Adam Rosales followed with a triple and Danny Dorn singled him home.
Toledo started chipping away at the lead, scoring once in the fourth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Clete Thomas and twice in the fifth on an RBI single by Wilkin Ramirez and a run-scoring grounder by Mike Hessman.
That tie didn't last long, as the Bats scored in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Wes Bankston. But the Hens managed to retie the game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out base hit by Donny Kelly that scored Dusty Ryan, who had put himself in scoring position by drawing a walk, then racing to third on a sacrifice by Rhymes.
"We just started a little late," Parrish said. "We had a guy on third base with none out in the first inning, and a ground ball would have scored him. It would have been good to take an early lead, but we're not able to get the guys in."
It didn't help that the Hens were just 2-for-11 when batting with runners in scoring position, stranding nine baserunners.
French allowed just four runs in six innings, but he continued a disturbing trend by the Toledo rotation. After the starters gave up just 11 runs in the Hens'
8-2 start, they now have surrendered 22 in the last four losses.
Louisville's game-winning eighth-inning rally was fueled by four hits off reliever Matt Rusch, including an RBI single by Gomes and a two-run hit by Drew Stubbs.
To add insult to injury, the Hens' Ramirez was removed from the game after batting in the sixth. Parrish said Ramirez suffered a jammed thumb on his right hand and probably will not play in tonight's game.
NOTES: Detroit right-hander Joel Zumaya left Fifth Third Field before yesterday's game. He said he will rejoin the Tigers today when they begin a series in Kansas City. In his rehab stint he pitched in three games for the Hens, including back-to-back outings against Indianapolis, and gave up no runs in five innings. Outfielder Jason Tyner joined the Hens after making a 10-hour drive from Nashville to Toledo. He did not play in last night's game. Ryan Roberson extended his season-opening hit streak to 13 games with a single in the fourth.
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The Mud Hens were struggling against more than just Louisville at Fifth Third Field last night. The bullpen was stretched thin, the starting pitching has hit a rut, and the offense is struggling. And all three played roles in Thursday night's 7-4 loss to the Bats.