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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Mud Hens end homestand 2-6

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens closed out a disappointing 2-6 homestand with a 5-3 loss to Columbus at Fifth Third Field Tuesday night.

And the defeat, the Hens' seventh in the last nine games, gave the 4,211 fans who braved the cold, windy night a clear view of the problems that have plagued Toledo in its recent tailspin.

One problem was an offense that again struggled to score runs. After a productive night Monday, the Hens had just five hits, going hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position with seven strikeouts before a two-out, two-run double by Ryan Roberson in the eighth.

"We're really struggling [with that] right now, there's no way around it," Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "We had a ton of baserunners, and we finally got a couple in in the eighth. But every inning we had guys out there."

Toledo stranded 11 runners, with runners in scoring position in five of the seven innings Columbus starter Jeremy Sowers pitched. But the lefty gave up only one run - and that came without giving up a hit.

Sowers walked Brent Dlugach and Roberson to lead off the second, and after Don Kelly sacrificed the runners into scoring position. Dlugach came home on a groundout by Max St. Pierre.

Otherwise Sowers held the Hens at bay, allowing just five hits while fanning six.

"It's kind of one of those deals where you make a couple of pitches and catch a break," Sowers said. "I was able to utilize that to carry myself through the next couple of innings."

Meanwhile, Toledo's pitching, which had surrendered 56 runs in the first seven games of the homestand, continued to struggle. Starter Lucas French gave up seven hits and three walks and wasn't able to go past the fifth inning because of a high pitch count. The bullpen also surrendered a pair of runs.

In the top of the second, French's struggles were at their worst. He gave up a leadoff double to Matt LaPorta, who went to third on a sacrifice by Luis Valbuena. The Hens lefty struck out Josh Barfield in an 11-pitch battle, but then French walked Jordan Brown on four pitches, Wyatt Toregas on five, and then Wilson Valdez on a 3-2 pitch to force home the run.

"That was a young-pitcher

sequence to me," Parrish said. "He made a couple of good pitches to Barfield and finally struck him out. Then he relaxed or exhaled or something and walked the bottom three batters in the order."

The Clippers then took the lead for good with a two-run third that hinged on an error by the Hens. With two outs and a runner on second, French got Valbuena to hit a routine grounder to shortstop.

But Dlugach's throw to first pulled Roberson off the bag, and Columbus took advantage of the error with run-scoring hits by Barfield and Brown.

Nick Regilio gave up a two-run homer to Toregas in the sixth, and those runs proved crucial when the Hens scored twice in the eighth and had the bases loaded with two outs before Danny Worth grounded out.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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