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Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 6/3/2010

Bad start dooms Mud Hens

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Mud Hens suffered an 11-6 loss to Lehigh Valley at Fifth Third Field yesterday.

After a 40-minute rain delay, Toledo yielded four runs in the first and five more in the second in front of 9,333 fans who were part of a School Celebration Day crowd. The Hens never recovered, snapping streaks of four wins, eight home victories and seven morning-game triumphs in a row.

And, believe it or not, things could have been worse.

How? Well, the Hens could have really suffered a jolt to their pitching staff when starter Alfredo Figaro was pulled from the game in the second inning after having allowed eight hits and eight earned runs.

"We had a doubleheader [Tuesday] and we had three guys in the bullpen who pitched [in those games]," Toledo manager Larry Parrish said. "Those guys could come in for an inning or so here, but they couldn't eat up innings.

"You wish this was a road game because then you wouldn't have to pitch the ninth inning."

It also was a game where Mud Hens fans probably wished they didn't have to watch the first and second innings.

Lehigh Valley sent seven men to the plate in the first and scored four times and collected five straight hits, the biggest being a three-run homer by Neil Sellers. In the second the IronPigs sent 10 to the plate and had four hits, a hit batsman and then another hit to score five more runs.

To make matters worse, both of those rallies came with two outs.

"That's tough to do," Parrish said. "In batting practice, when you're trying to let the batters hit it, it's still tough to give up five hits in a row without them popping a ball up or grounding out."

While the four-run first hurt, Toledo responded with three runs in the bottom of the first. But Lehigh Valley's five-run second was a mountain the Hens were unable to scale.

"We came back to score three, and you think, 'No problem. We've got a ballgame,'" Parrish said. "Then we gave up five more runs.

"To try and dig out of that hole is tough."

So Parrish and pitching coach A.J. Sager spent the rest of the game managing the Hens' bullpen. Josh Rainwater pitched 31/3 innings, giving up four hits and just one run, while Scot Drucker added three innings of work and allowed only a two-run homer by John Mayberry Jr. in the sixth.

Sager said he and Parrish have to follow certain rules set by the parent Tigers for using relievers.

"We have rules we have to follow about pitch counts, and days off after reaching certain pitch counts," Sager said. "We are fortunate that our starters have done a good job this year of going deep into games, so our 'pen is far from being overused.

"We've had a lot of baseball the last night and a half, but we've had enough guys who were rested and ready to go."

Toledo starters entered yesterday's game with a fine 3.48 earned-run average, a key reason the Hens led the International League with a 3.35 team ERA.

Sager and Parrish have some more decisions to make in the coming days, but those decisions center on the rotation. Neither Ruddy Lugo nor L.J. Gagnier - the starters Toledo used in Tuesday's doubleheader - can come back in time to pitch again Saturday because both need a full five days' rest.

"We don't bring starters back earlier [than five days], so usually we'll try to cover one of the seven-inning games [of a doubleheader] with the bullpen," Sager said. "That's because we don't want to have to cover nine innings with the bullpen four days later.

"We caught a bit of a break [Tuesday] because we found out we'll probably have a starter come to us in a few days to fill that gap."

Right-handed pitcher Billy Buckner is expected to join the team when it travels to Rochester tomorrow, and Parrish said he will enter the Hens' rotation. Buckner came to the Tigers in Wednesday's trade that sent Dontrelle Willis to Arizona.

NOTES: Catcher Max St-Pierre was hit on the hand by a pitch yesterday and later removed from the contest. He was scheduled to have x-rays taken on the hand. … Scott Sizemore had two hits yesterday to extend his current hit streak to 10 games, the longest by a Hen this season. … First baseman Jeff Larish took batting practice and ran the bases before Tuesday's doubleheader. Larish, who went on the disabled list May 21 with a groin injury, is expected to come off the DL soon.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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