With roughly half of the season still to play, the Mud Hens knew they wouldn’t win the rest of their games this season.
But Toledo’s 3-0 loss to Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, which snapped the team’s seven-game winning streak, still hurt.
“We took this loss tough. It stung a little bit, which was good,” said Hens third baseman Mike Cervenak. “You hate to see [a winning streak] come to an end, but the reality is you’re not going to win out.
“It’s good to see we don’t like losing — there’s no acceptance of it.”
What made the loss especially difficult was that it seemed the Mud Hens were going to post a come-from-behind win, which has been the team’s specialty lately. Toledo loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but a strikeout and a grounded resulted in the Hens’ sixth shutout loss this season.
“I thought we were going to come back in the ninth,” starter Pat Misch said. “That’s kind of the attitude our hitters have right now: They are confident.
“You’re going to lose games here and there, but we’ll come back out and just try to start another [winning streak].”
The Toledo offense struggled all night against Carlos Zambrano as the 11-year major-league veteran, who made three all-star teams with the Chicago Cubs, allowed just five hits in seven innings.
“We’ve played well, but we ran up against a pitcher who knows how to pitch,” Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve been swinging the bats well, so for a pitcher to stop us like that, he had to throw a good game.”
Zambrano didn’t allow a runner past first base until the fifth, when the Hens got a runner to third but failed to bring him in. In the sixth Argenis Diaz tripled with one out but was stranded there, and in the seventh Toledo got two baserunners on with one out but again failed to score.
“Zambrano worked quickly and he pounded the strike zone with different pitches,” said Cervenak, who had a hit and a walk against the IronPigs starter. “It was tough to sit on anything.
“We never really got him into counts where he had to [throw a pitch] in the strike zone. He was always working ahead and making his pitch.”
Meanwhile, Misch gave up two runs in the third thanks to bad luck more than bad pitching. With one out he threw wildly to first trying to retire Troy Hanzawa on a slow roller for an error.
Then Lehigh Valley’s Jermaine Mitchell called for time as Misch was set to deliver a pitch — and didn’t get the call. So Mitchell swung at the pitch and hit a slow roller that got past Misch for an infield hit.
Then with the runners moving on a pitch, Cesar Hernandez doubled into the left-field corner to score two runs.
“It’s frustrating, but you have to get back to being focused, make your pitches and get out of it,” Misch said. “It was crazy, though.
“You just have to go out there and keep battling.”
Misch gave up a run in the fourth on a double, a sacrifice and a sacrifice fly, but Nevin was pleased with Misch’s seven innings of work.
“We needed the innings, and our bullpen will be back fresh [today],” Nevin said. “That was a great start from him.
“We were in the game, and he gave us that chance to win. That’s what you ask from your starter.”
NOTES: Nevin was ejected for arguing a check-swing call in the bottom of the ninth. … LHP Ramon Garcia was promoted from Double-A Erie and will start today for the Hens. He takes the spot of LHP Jose Alvarez, who will be called up to Detroit on Thursday. … LHP Casey Crosby is expected to make his next start, which is Saturday against Pawtucket. Crosby left Monday’s game with a leg injury but reported only soreness Tuesday.
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