In some ways, the Mud Hens' 2010 opener was reminiscent of the '09 Hens.
Toledo pounded a pair of home runs yesterday in front of a crowd of 12,711 at Fifth Third Field. That was similar to last season when the Hens finished second in the International League in home runs.
But Toledo also struggled to get the big hit with runners in scoring position - same as last year, when the Hens had one of the worst marks in that area in the minor leagues - and that caused the Hens to suffer a 5-3 setback to Louisville.
The Mud Hens had just one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, costing them a chance to come back from an early five-run deficit.
"We didn't get a hit when we had the bases loaded in the fifth," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "We had two guys on with none out in that inning, and the next two guys made outs without moving the runners at all.
"Somebody needed to get a hit, and we didn't get it."
That wasted fifth-inning rally, which came with Toledo trailing 5-0, saw Will Rhymes draw a four-pitch walk from Bats starter Sam LeCure to lead off. Robinzon Diaz then blooped a single to left that pushed Rhymes to second.
But Louisville's Chris Heisey made a running catch in right on a pop by Danny Worth, and Clete Thomas took a called third strike. Brent Dlugach beat out an infield single to short to load the bases, but Brennan Boesch flew out to left to end the threat.
The Bats built that early lead with two runs in the fourth and three in the fifth off Toledo starter Ruddy Lugo. In the fourth Lugo allowed a leadoff single to Todd Frazier, and Danny Dorn followed with a long home run to right-center.
Louisville knocked Lugo out of the game in the fifth when Chris Valaika singled and Corky Miller slammed a no-doubt homer to left-center. Lugo got the next two batters out before Heisey pounded a double off the wall.
Daniel Schlereth came on in relief of Lugo, but Frazier greeted him with an RBI double down the right-field line.
"I thought about walking [Frazier] so Schlereth could face [Dorn] in a lefty-lefty matchup," Parrish said. "But it was only the fifth inning, and we were down four runs, so that's not usually the place where you do that."
After that the Mud Hens bullpen was air-tight as Schlereth allowed just two baserunners over the next two frames, while Robbie Weinhardt and Jason Waddell retired the Bats without incident.
"We saw some good things from the bullpen," Parrish said. "We had some guys who hadn't pitched here get their feet wet, and that was a positive.
"The bullpen did a nice job."
That gave the Hens a chance to get back into the game, which they did thanks to a three-run sixth.
Ryan Strieby got things rolling by stroking the first pitch of the inning off the Fricker's building in right for his first home run of the season. Four pitches later, Jeff Larish pounded his first homer of the year into almost the exact same spot.
"It's always nice to hit that first home run and get it out of the way," Strieby said. "Last year I had two in the first game, so it's always nice to start fast."
That was the end of the day for LeCure, but it wasn't the end of the Toledo scoring. Casper Wells slammed a double off the wall in left-center off Enerio Del Rosario, then injured his hand on a head-first slide into third on a foul ball and was replaced at second by Jeff Frazier.
Frazier took third on a groundout by Rhymes then came home on a groundout by Diaz.
Toledo had at least one baserunner in every inning but stranded nine.
"I thought we had some guys who swung the bat well," Parrish said. "I thought Dlugach swung the bat well, and Strieby swung the bat well, with a couple of line shots for outs. And Larish swung the bat well.
"But they hit a couple of two-run homers and we hit a couple of solo shots."
The Mud Hens and Bats will continue their four-game series tonight at 5:30, with LHP Phil Dumatrait starting for Toledo against LHP Travis Wood of Louisville.
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