Toledo's Jordan Lennerton is caught trying to steal second by Charlotte's Steve Tolleson in the second inning at Fifth Third Field. The Mud Hens wore uniforms inspired by ‘Star Wars.’
Of course Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin was unhappy his team lost to Charlotte 2-1 in 13 innings Saturday night.
But what upset him more was the way his offensive-challenged club failed to mount any sort of attack.
Toledo managed just seven hits and one unearned run in 13 innings. Not only was there just one run, but the Hens didn’t even push a runner past second in 11 of their 13 innings.
As a result, the Mud Hens lost for the second night in a row and eighth time in the last 10 games.
"We’re not taking good at-bats, " Nevin said after the game. "You have to question our approach [at the plate] at times.
"[Hitting coach] ‘Bull’ Durham has worked his [butt] off all year, and especially the last three days we’ve been home. He’s trying everything."
Toledo wasted a fine start by Jose Alvarez, who gave up six hits and a walk while fanning six in seven shutout innings.
PHOTO GALLERY: Knights beat Mud Hens in 13 innings
The problem was Charlotte starer Simon Castro shut out the Hens on two hits in seven innings, collecting six whiffs. What frustrated Nevin was that Castro needed just 71 pitches, including 50 strikes, to cover seven innings.
"That’s the [problem] in a nutshell right there," Nevin said of Castro’s low pitch count. "We have to work on extending at-bats, extending innings."
Toledo reliever Brayan Villarreal walked two hitters in the eighth but also struck out a pair to avoid trouble. However he wasn’t as lucky in the ninth. He walked the leadoff hitter, Jim Gallagher, then gave up a sacrifice before Brandon Short punched a liner into the right-center gap that eventually rolled to the wall for a run-scoring triple.
But in the bottom of the ninth, the Hens managed to scratch out a game-tying run. Gustavo Nunez slapped a slow roller to second base that he beat out for a one-out single.
When Ramon Castro hit a grounder right to Charlotte’s Brent Morel, a game-ending double play seemed to be a sure thing. But Morel dropped the ball, fumbled it when he tried to pick it up, then held on for an error.
Nick Castellanos flew out, but Jordan Lennerton rode a 3-2 fastball into left field for a single that brought home Nunez with the game-tying run.
The game-winning rally in the 13th began with a single by Josh Phegley off Hens reliever Kenny Faulk. Gallagher advanced him to second, and Jess Todd came on to strike out Steve Tolleson.
But Short slammed a long double into the gap in left-center to score what proved to be the winning run.
The Knights had runners on base in both the 10th and 11th innings. In the 10th an infield hit and a steal put a runner on second with two outs before Faulk got the final out. And in the 11th back-to-back one-out walks were wasted when Faulk got a strikeout and a groundout.
The closest the Mud Hens came to scoring in extra innings came in the 11th, when Cabrera and Castellanos singled with two outs. Both batters moved up a base on a wild pitch, but Lennerton flew out to end the threat.
In the bottom of the 13th Argenis Diaz singled with one out, but the runner was stranded at first as Charlotte improved to 3-0 in extra innings, while Toledo fell to 1-4. Worse, the Hens fell to 8-22 on the season, the worst record in the International League.
"It’s time for our offensive side to pick it up," Nevin said. "I’ve said all along that these guys are going to get going, but now it’s time to get going."
NOTE: The game was played in front of a crowd of 11,500 fans, which was the team’s second sellout this season.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.