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The Mud Hens certainly were glad to welcome Andy Dirks to their lineup Sunday.
And while Dirks wasn't able to help Toledo avoid a 7-6 loss to Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field, he was glad to be back on the field as well.
Dirks hasn't played since May 31 because of a sore Achilles tendon that pushed him onto Detroit's disabled list for the last two months. Before that time Dirks had hit .328 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 37 games for the Tigers.
"Every injury is frustrating, because it keeps you from playing," he said. "But this one kind of built up over time, and I didn't think it would take this long [to come back], so that made it worse.
"It was a slow-healing injury, but now it's feeling good."
Sunday Dirks played five innings for the Hens, and he is expected to play seven innings when Toledo hosts the Indians today. Dirks also will play for the Hens when they begin a series in Columbus Tuesday, with the goal of having the 26-year-old able to play nine full innings in the outfield.
"I'm just trying to get back to where I am 100 percent while on a baseball field," Dirks said. "You can do all the rehab you want, but until you're playing in a game you don't know how it's going to react.
"The plan sounds good to me, so we'll try to ease into it."
Dirks went 1-for-3 Sunday, lining an RBI single in the first before grounding out in his final two at-bats.
"I haven't had any at-bats in a couple of months," he said. "You can take [batting practice] and 'front toss' and all that, but until you face live pitchers it's hard to get into a rhythm and into a groove."
"It was good to get out there and play. I had a good time, and there's a good group of guys here. I enjoyed it until the end of the game."
The enjoyment left Dirks and the Hens in the eighth, when they saw a 6-4 lead evaporate.
Reliever Jose Ortega gave up a pair of singles and struck out a pair before the Indians' Jose Morales took a 100 mph fastball on an 0-2 pitch and slammed it just over the left-field fence for a three-run homer.
"[Ortega] supplied the power there," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. "He got the good part of the wood on it, and when the pitcher is throwing 100 mph, the ball goes."
What made the Indianapolis rally particularly painful was that the Mud Hens had just scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead.
"Each time we scored, they seemed to come back," Nevin said. "You can point fingers all you want, but I screwed up in the first inning.
"I just saw something that wasn't there. We should have had the bases loaded with none out, and we might still be hitting."
The play in question came in the bottom of the first after Indianapolis had scored twice on a home run over the left-field scoreboard by Starling Marte. The Hens had bounced back with one run as Justin Henry doubled and moved to third on an error, Ben Guez was hit by a pitch, and Dirks lined an RBI single to center that pushed Guez to second.
The next batter, John Lindsey, ground a single through the hole at shortstop. Guez was rounding third as Marte in left got to the ball, but Nevin sent Guez home and Marte threw Guez out at the plate.
Had Guez stayed at third, Danny Dorn's walk would have come with the bases loaded and allowed Guez to trot home.
"I screwed that up, and we ended up losing by a run, so that's on me," Nevin said. "That was a great battle by our team. We're still fighting, and I absolutely love that.
"They picked me up, and that was great."
Indianapolis scored twice in the second, but Toledo kept pecking away thanks to a home run by Audy Ciriaco in the second and another by Dorn in the third. Then in the seventh the Mud Hens rallied to take the lead, only to set the stage for the Indians' winning rally in the eighth.
NOTES: Argenis Diaz was in the original lineup at shortstop but was scratched in favor of Ciriaco. … Toledo is 8-23 in one-run games, the worst mark in the International League. … Sunday's crowd of 9,239 was the Hens' 16th sellout this season, their third in a row, and 313th in Fifth Third Field history.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.