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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2011

Chilling loss for Hens

High winds, cold temperatures freeze up Toledo bats

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Toledo Mud Hens shortstop Cale Iorg dives but can't get a wind blown ball hit by Indianapolis' Josh Harrison during the fifth inning Wednesday morning of the Mud Hens' 4-2 loss at Fifth Third Field. The loss drops the Hens to 4-9 on the season. Toledo Mud Hens shortstop Cale Iorg dives but can't get a wind blown ball hit by Indianapolis' Josh Harrison during the fifth inning Wednesday morning of the Mud Hens' 4-2 loss at Fifth Third Field. The loss drops the Hens to 4-9 on the season.
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The thermometer at Fifth Third Field read just 44 degrees at the start of Wednesday's Mud Hens game against Indianapolis.

Indians starter Justin Wilson wasn't buying it.

"It didn't feel like 44 -- it felt much colder," said Wilson, a California native. "But you have to deal with it.

"Before the game, [catcher Jason Jaramillo] and I talked about it, and we said that you have to block [the cold] out and do our jobs."

Wilson allowed just two hits in six shutout innings to lead Indianapolis to a 4-2 win over the Hens. Both teams managed just six hits, but the Hens weren't able to scratch out any runs until the late innings, and a four-run deficit was too much to overcome.

That four-run lead seemed monumental on a day where brisk winds whipping at 20 miles per hour, or more, prompted both teams to have space heaters in the dugout -- to little effect.

Indianapolis reliever Justin Thomas, who pitched a scoreless inning for the Tribe, is a Clay High School graduate who has experience pitching in this weather.

"Before you go in, you have to make sure you're loose," Thomas said. "You stay in the clubhouse, you stretch a lot.

"You make sure that your arm is ready to go. When you start getting loose, you make sure you take it easy, make sure you're warmed up."

One of the few hitters who had success for the Hens was second baseman Scott Sizemore, who singled in the third before setting up Toledo's two-run eighth-inning rally with a double.

"You try not to give any at-bats away," he said. "You focus on every pitch. You don't want the pitcher to get away with a fastball down the middle -- a pitch you would normally hit -- just because you're thinking of the cold.

"If you push that stuff aside and focus on what you should be, you can scratch out a hit or two."

The winds affected both defenses as each team allowed popups that would be outs on most days to instead fall for base hits.

"I think the wind changes the game more than any other element," Sizemore said. "The wind seems to do more things to the defense. And the wind with the cold makes it hard to grip the ball."

Still, Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin was quick to point out the weather was no excuse for the Toledo loss.

"I know hitting in this isn't a lot of fun, but both teams are in the same boat," he said. "But we had our chances. Late in the game we had some runners out there and had chances to drive them in -- we just didn't get a big hit.

"That's the difference between winning and losing: They got a couple of two-out hits to drive in runs, and we didn't."

Indianapolis broke on top in the second inning when Andy Marte launched his second home run of the season off the brick supports of the scoreboard in left field.

The game remained 1-0 until the sixth, when back-to-back one-out doubles by Chase d'Arnaud and Pedro Ciriaco produced one run, and a steal of third by Ciriaco set up a sacrifice fly by Alex Presley.

Those were the only missteps by Toledo starter Thad Weber. His 3.00 ERA better reflects the strong start to his season than does his 0-2 record because his teammates have scored just two runs in his two losses.

"He did great," Nevin said of Weber. "He was ahead in the count and very efficient with his pitches. Every start in Triple-A he has pitched deep into games and given his team a chance to win, and that's all you can ask from your starter."

The Hens offense continued its early season struggles, stranding four baserunners in the first three innings before Wilson retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. The Indians' Thomas stranded two baserunners in the seventh before Toledo broke through for a pair of runs in the eighth.

Andy Dirks beat out a grounder up the middle for a single, then raced to third on a double by Sizemore. Timo Perez grounded out to score Dirks before Sizemore came home on a two-out single by Scott Thorman, the Hens' only hit in nine at-bats with a runner in scoring position.

But the rally wasn't enough to prevent the Hens from falling to 4-9 on the season, or to deny Wilson his first Triple-A victory. How did Wilson plan to celebrate?

"I'll be bundled up in a blanket," he said.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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