Syracuse Chiefs left fielder Jeff Kobernus, who was with the Tigers in spring training, bats against the Mud Hens.
The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Syracuse’s Jeff Kobernus used his legs to hand the Mud Hens a 4-3 loss in 10 innings Monday.
Kobernus, a former Detroit Tiger spring training invitee, played the key role in scoring the game-winning run off Toledo’s Bruce Rondon.
Kobernus drew an eight-pitch walk to lead off the 10th, then stole second and third on the first two pitches Rondon threw to Will Rhymes.
While Rondon retired Rhymes on a groundout, Chris Marrero followed with a hard liner down the right-field line that Ben Guez grabbed thanks only to a fine, diving catch. Kobernus trotted home to score the first run Rondon has allowed in Toledo this season, a run that sent the Hens to a 1-7 record in extra-inning games.
“He saw a lot of pitches, fouled some off,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of the at-bat by Kobernus. “From our side, we made some good pitches. But a slider on a 3-2 pitch probably isn’t where we want to go.
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“Once you walk him, Kobernus is going to steal bases off anyone.”
Kobernus came to Detroit in the Rule 5 draft last December and worked with the Tigers in spring training. When the Tigers determined he would not make the team’s Opening Day roster, they tried to work out a trade with Washington to keep Kobernus.
But nothing materialized, and the 24-year-old was sent to Syracuse this season.
“I wish it would have worked out, because I would have liked to start out in the big leagues,” Kobernus admitted. “But all my pro experience is with Washington, so it is a place I’m comfortable with.
“I have a lot of friends and teammates going through their system, so I felt comfortable here.”
While Kobernus was hitless in four at-bats before the walk, his .331 batting average this season ranks among the International League leaders. And he now has stolen 20 bases, the second-highest total in the league.
Kobernus said he holds no animosity toward Detroit.
“Being in spring training, I made a lot of friends with those guys [in Toledo’s dugout],” Kobernus said. “I was there for five weeks, and in five weeks you make a lot of friendships.
“I don’t think it’s been awkward, and I haven’t tried harder [to beat them]. It’s just been fun.”
The late rally by the Chiefs spoiled a good comeback by the Mud Hens, who trailed 2-0 before they batted and were down 3-0 coming into the fifth.
But in the fifth, the Hens finally got to Syracuse starter Chris Young, who limited them to three hits and a walk in the first four frames, even though he never threw a pitch faster than 85 miles per hour. Toledo took advantage of an error by Marrero at first base by slamming three doubles off Young to plate three runs and tie the game.
“I’ve seen Chris Young pitch a million times, and he’s a very deceptive guy,” said Nevin, who was a teammate of Young’s in Texas in 2005. “I know the radar gun doesn’t say much [when he pitches], but he can pitch up in the zone and be effective.
“He gets a lot of popup outs, and he’s been effective for a long, long time.”
But after tying the game, the Hens still had runners on second and third with just one out — and failed to score.
“You have to get runners in from third with less than two outs,” Nevin said. “It looked great to get three in that inning, but we left some out there.”
The Mud Hens were just 3-for-12 when batting with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
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