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Published: Monday, 7/5/2010

Mud Hens losing streak hits 10 games

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Parrish ejected after call at the plate Columbus' Brian Bixler beats Toledo catcher Jeff Kunkel's tag at the plate to score a run in the fifth inning at Fifth Third Field. Parrish ejected after call at the plate Columbus' Brian Bixler beats Toledo catcher Jeff Kunkel's tag at the plate to score a run in the fifth inning at Fifth Third Field.
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There was a sign posted in the Mud Hens' locker-room before Sunday's Fourth of July game against Columbus at Fifth Third Field.

"These are the times that try men's souls," it began, quoting the opening paragraph of Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet, The Crisis.

Well, the "crisis" for the Mud Hens continued Sunday night as the team suffered its 10th consecutive setback, falling to the Clippers 6-0 in front of 10,300 fans.

The roots of Sunday night's loss weren't a whole lot different from the causes of the previous nine: the offense continued to struggle, while the pitchers couldn't overcome a big inning that allowed Columbus to break the game open.

The Clippers scored a run in the first when Cord Phelps tripled, then came home on Luis Valbuena's sacrifice fly.

Columbus broke the game open in the fifth, which began when Wes Hodges singled and Toledo starter Rick Porcello walked the next two hitters, Nick Weglarz

and Lou Marson, to load the bases.

Toledo manager Larry Parrish argues with home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after a call at the plate in the fifth inning. Toledo manager Larry Parrish argues with home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after a call at the plate in the fifth inning.
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"[Porcello] thought he had some strikes on some of those batters in the fourth, but he didn't get the call," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "The ball four pitches weren't close. But if he's right [about those calls], he can still throw those strikes and be successful."

With the infield in to make a play at home, Brian Bixler beat out a grounder into the hole to score one run.

The infield stayed in close, and Luis Constanza reached on a one-hopper that just bounced over the head of Will Rhymes at second base for a single that brought home another run.

"The way we're scoring runs, we know we have to cut off those runs at the plate," Parrish said when asked why he had the infield in. "There was a ball in the hole where we didn't get an out, and the ball bounces over the head of a fielder.

"We could have used the outs there; that would have limited the damage. Instead it was a base hit there, a base hit there, and the cows were out of the barn."

Phelps followed with a soft single to right that scored two runs. But there was controversy on the play, as Jeff Frazier's throw to the plate beat Bixler, whose slide allowed him to touch the plate in front of Jeff Kunkel's tag.

Parrish was ejected for arguing the safe call at the plate.

"That was a little bit of frustration [coming out]," Parrish admitted. "It was a close play, and right now we're looking to get a call like that."

Porcello managed to avoid more trouble in the fifth and retired the final eight hitters he faced.

"I thought Porcello got better," Parrish said. "I think he got to a point where he just starting throwing instead of manipulating the ball. And at the end he started getting some good action on the ball."

Jared Goedert ended the scoring with a home run in the eighth for Columbus. That was more than enough offense for Clippers starter David Huff, who allowed just three hits in six scoreless innings.

The Mud Hens' best opportunity to score came in the fourth when, with one out, Ryan Strieby and Jeff Frazier hit back-to-back singles. Strieby moved to third on a flyout by Jeff Larish, and Wilkin Ramirez walked to load the bases.

Jon Weber fouled out to end the threat.

In the final four innings the Hens collected four hits and three walks but didn't score because Toledo hitters went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 baserunners.

"Obviously we had a few chances," Parrish said.

"Our bugaboo is with runners in scoring position right now.

The offense has scored just one time in the last 24 innings. As a result, the Hens are close to tying the 11-game losing streaks of the 1999 and 1990 teams.

"This isn't a fun time to go through this for anybody," Parrish said. "A few weeks ago we were just one game out of first place, and this was going to be a big series. Now we're trying to keep from drowning."

NOTES: Both teams wore white hats that had the team logo filled in by a red, white, and blue flag design. … Sunday night's crowd of 10,300 was the Mud Hens 17th sellout this season and the 255th in the nine-year history of Fifth Third Field.

Contact John Wagner at:

jwagner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6481.



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