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Published: Monday, 7/6/2009

Bullpen falters for Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

For a time, the Mud Hens managed to keep pace with Columbus Sunday night.

But when the Clippers scored seven runs in the final three innings, it was too much for Toledo to overcome as the Hens fell 8-1 at Fifth Third Field.

"We dodged some bullets for a long time. They had a lot of baserunners, and we kept getting them out," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "But late in the ball game, they started to get two-out hits."

The Clippers scored the go-ahead run in the seventh off Toledo reliever Josh Rainwater, who helped start the rally by walking ninth hitter Niuman Romero. After a sacrifice and a groundout, Jordan Brown hit a two-out single to score Romero.

Columbus added four insurance runs in the eighth thanks to a two-out rally that began with singles by Damaso Espino and Romero off Rainwater. Clay Rapada came on and walked Michael Brantley to load the bases, then unloaded them by giving up a grand slam to Trevor Crowe.

"We wanted to get Brantley out in that situation, but we didn't," Parrish said. "Then we threw a pretty good breaking ball to Crowe, and he fouled it off. We came back with the same pitch, and he didn't miss it.

"That ended up being the big blow. It took the air out of our balloon."

The Clippers fattened their cushion with two more runs in the ninth on a two-out, two-run single by Romero as Columbus scored seven of its eight runs with two outs.

The two teams managed just one run in the opening inning despite having opportunities.

Columbus scored its first-inning run thanks in part to two errors. But Wilkin Ramirez got that run back with one swing of the bat when he slammed a 3-2 pitch from Fausto Carmona onto the batter's eye in center for his eighth home run of the season.

The Hens wasted a bases-loaded, one-out rally in the third when Jeff Larish hit into a double play, but the Clippers saw a two-on, one-out rally in the fourth snuffed out by Brantley's double-play groundout. The teams combined to go 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position in the first six frames.

"We had some chances early," Parrish said. "After we hit into the double play, we didn't mount a whole lot. We didn't get a baserunner out of our fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh hitters.

"We were battling out there, but they threw Carmona and [Rafael] Betancourt against us. I thought we had a good chance [to win]. But after the grand slam, we were flat as a pancake."

NOTES: To give SS Brent Dlugach a day off, Parrish used Mike Hessman at shortstop and Larish at third base. Hessman handled six chances cleanly, while Larish was errorless on the three plays he handled. 2B Scott Sizemore was not in the starting lineup for a second straight day because of a wrist injury. Parrish said he hopes the off day today will allow Sizemore to return to the lineup tomorrow. LHP Dontrelle Willis was on the field for the Mud Hens during batting practice yesterday, then worked out in the weight room.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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