Syracuse's Chris Rahl makes contact on a pitch from Mud Hens starter Derek Hankins.
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A bullpen that has been solid all season cost the Mud Hens a chance to win Tuesday’s game against Syracuse.
The Hens ’pen gave up three runs in each of the last two innings as the Chiefs claimed a 7-5 victory in front of 10,500 fans at Fifth Third Field.
Toledo’s relievers came into Tuesday with a composite 2.56 ERA but struggled to get the game’s final six outs, surrendering three hits and three walks.
“The bullpen has been great all year,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “But that doesn’t excuse walking leadoff hitters late in the game when you have a small lead.
“That’s two games in a row where [the bullpen] has cost us.”
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Toledo carried a 3-1 lead into the eighth inning when Evan Reed came on in relief and walked the leadoff hitter, Chris Rahl. Rahl was moving when Jeff Kobernus hit a high hopper near second base that Gustavo Nunez misplayed for an error that put runners on first and third with no outs.
A groundout by Will Rhymes scored Rahl, and a groundout by Chris Marerro should have ended the inning. Instead lefty Kenny Faulk came on to face Corey Brown, and Brown pounded a two-run homer to straight-away center to give the Chiefs the lead for good.
In the ninth Faulk walked the first hitter, Zach Walters, then gave up an infield single to Carlos Rivero that Nunez couldn’t handle, allowing Walters to take third. Faulk then walked the ninth batter, Brian Jeroloman to load the bases.
Brayan Villarreal came on and gave up a groundout to Rahl that scored a run, and Kobernus followed with a double off the wall in left that brought home two more runs.
The late-inning implosion wasted a strong effort by starter Derek Hankins, who allowed just one run on five hits and three walks in seven innings. Hankins gave up back-to-back doubles by Rivero and Jeroloman for the run, but also struck out five and retired all but three of the last 18 batters he faced.
“He had a little blister on his finger that he was able to manage,” Nevin said of Hankins. “He gave us seven strong [innings] and gave us a chance to win.
“Since he came here, he’s been very good. He threw strikes and kept them off-balance.”
Meanwhile the Toledo offense struggled against Ryan Tatusko, who made a spot start when Washington called up scheduled starter Yunesky Maya. Tatusko allowed just two hits — singles by Jordan Lennerton — and a walk until the sixth, striking out nine along the way.
“We had a guy make a spot start against us, and we had five guys take a fastball for strike three,” Nevin said. “You can’t do that.”
Tatusko gave up a one-out single to Kevin Russo in the sixth, and reliever Jeremy Accardo came on and walked Lennerton, then gave up Nick Castellanos’ fifth home run of the season.
Toledo did not score again until the ninth, when Lennerton capped a 4-for-4 day with a two-run double.
“I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit,” said Lennerton, who is hitting .327 this year. “I have teammates getting on base and opening up some holes for me.
“Hitting in front of Nick is a help because Nick is a great hitter in his own right. They may give me a few extra pitches to hit [because of him].”
The good news for the Hens, who have lost three in a row, is that they will take today off before beginning a four-game series at Gwinnett on Thursday.
“At this level they’re all good because you don’t get too many of them,” Nevin said of the day off. “When we play in the morning, it’s almost like we get two days off.”
NOTES: RHP Al Alburquerque joined the Hens on Tuesday. He was optioned from Detroit to Toledo on May 16. … After the game RHP Michael Morrison was sent to Double-A Erie. The Mud Hens will activate IF Brandon Douglas from the disabled list Thursday.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.