New Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin made his first day at Fifth Third Field a memorable one.
The Hens would like to forget the pair of losses they suffered as Columbus won by scores of 1-0 and 7-3 in front of 12,825 fans.
But late in the second game, Nevin injected some excitement into opening day, arguing a call at home plate before getting ejected by umpire Derek Crabill.
"I had to excite the fans a little bit -- let them know I'm here," Nevin said.
"As the manager, sometimes you have to do things that let the players know you have their backs. And I'll always be that way."
The ejection came on a play with the bases loaded and two outs. The Clippers' Paul Phillips lifted a soft liner that Hens shortstop Cale Iorg dropped near second base.
After the ball rolled away from Iorg, allowing one run to score, the shortstop picked it up and threw home to try and nab Jordan Brown.
Crabill called Brown safe, much to the displeasure of Toledo catcher John Murrian, and Nevin was ejected soon after he began arguing the call.
'"Sometimes you just need a spark," Nevin said. "My players were upset. I really couldn't see the play from the dugout, but when you see your players react that way, I'm going to protect them."
The Hens' bats needed a spark Thursday, especially in the first game as Columbus starter Jeanmar Gomez shut them out on eight hits.
The closest the Hens came to scoring came in the fifth. With one out Iorg singled, then raced around to third on a hit-and-run grounder by Omir Santos.
But Santos took off for second on a 1-0 pitch to Scott Sizemore, and Iorg was thrown out at home trying to complete a double steal.
"We kind of got confused on the signs," Nevin said. "But I'll take the blame for that one.
"We've got a new guy [Santos], and you need to go over the signs two or three times with a player, and I didn't do that.
"It was an honest mistake. But at the end of the day we had a chance to execute a play, and we didn't execute it. We got a late break off third base, and that made the difference between getting thrown out and sliding in safely."
The lack of offense ruined a fine start by the Hens' Thad Weber, who held Columbus in check on just three hits and three walks.
"Thad Weber pitched his butt off," Nevin said. "I'm really pleased with the way the guys in the rotation have thrown the ball and kept us in the game.
"Thad gave us six innings and only [allowed] one run, and I'll take that every day."
The only mistake Weber made came to Grady Sizemore, who was making a rehab start for the Clippers. In the third Weber fell behind 3-0, and after getting one strike, Sizemore pounded the next pitch over the fence for a home run.
"I was able to command the fastball pretty well," Weber said. "The breaking ball was pretty good, and I mixed in a few change-ups to keep them off [the fastball].
"Other than the one pitch and the three walks, I was pretty happy with it."
In the second game, the Hens jumped in front when Scott Sizemore led off with a single, moved to third on a single by Timo Perez, and scored on a groundout by Andy Dirks.
Columbus got that run back in the second off starter Chris Oxspring as Chad Huffman singled, stole second before Brown walked, then came home on a single by Phillips.
The Hens tacked on two more runs in the second. Three straight singles by Clay Timpner, Argenis Diaz and Murrian produced one run, and a fielder's choice groundout by Perez plated another.
But after that the Mud Hens struggled against the Clippers' bullpen as Carlton Smith and Zach Putnam each threw two scoreless innings, with Smith getting the win and Putnam the save.
Meanwhile, Columbus tied the game with two runs in the fourth thanks in large part to a two-run double by Luis Valbuena off reliever Zach Simons, then took the lead for good in the fifth when Ezequiel Carrera scored on a wild pitch by reliever Brendan Wise.
Things unraveled in the seventh when the Clippers loaded the bases with one out, then scored once on a fielder's choice and two more on Iorg's misplay.
When it was over, the bad news that the Hens lost twice was tempered by the good news that there still is a whole season of games left to play.
"It's early -- we're only eight games in," Weber said. "Obviously we'd like to be winning a little more right now.
"But this is a good ballclub, and we know we can play. This is a good team -- it's just a matter of putting it all together."
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.