Toledo Mud Hens left fielder Nick Castellanos hits a single against Pawtucket during the second inning.
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
The Mud Hens came within one strike of beating Pawtucket on Saturday, then came within one strike of escaping a bases-loaded jam in the 10th.
But Toledo failed to get that final strike on both occasions as Pawtucket claimed a 5-4 victory at Fifth Third Field.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view
RELATED ARTICLE: Tigers experience woes with farm clubs
Hens closer Bruce Rondon came on in the ninth with his team leading 2-1 and gave up a leadoff single to Jeremy Hazelbaker, who stole second one out later. Then with two outs Jackie Bradley, Jr., hit a hard line drive to left that a diving Nick Castellanos failed to catch for a run-scoring two-base error.
In the 10th Brayan Villarreal walked Mitch Maier and gave up a single to Bryce Brentz. Drew Sutton’s slow roller allowed the runners to advance to second and third, but Villarreal struck out Xander Bogaerts to give himself a chance to escape unscathed.
Villarreal intentionally walked Hazelbaker to face former Mud Hen Justin Henry, who slammed a bases-clearing double to deep left.
While Toledo got a two-run homer from Ben Guez in the bottom of the 10th and a walk to the next batter, Ramon Cabrera, the two batters who followed both struck out. As a result, the Mud Hens lost for just the second time this season in a game where they led entering the ninth inning.
Toledo’s late-inning struggles spoiled a strong effort by Robbie Weinhardt, who was making the first start of his professional career.
Weinhardt covered the first five innings and allowed just six hits and no walks while striking out two and getting nine ground-ball outs.
He also got some help from the Toledo defense. Brandon Douglas made a nice sliding stop while back-handing a Henry grounder at second in the third, and one out later Danny Dorn fielded a hit byJackie Bradley down the right-field line, then threw Bradley out at second base to end the inning.
Pawtucket eventually nicked Weinhardt for a run in the fifth thanks to a fluky hit by Hazelbaker, who opened that inning by hitting a looper down the left-field line. The ball took a strange hop in foul territory, and by the time Castellanos got the ball back to the infield Hazelbaker was standing on third.
With the infield in, Henry lined an RBI single through the hole at shortstop. Henry stole second and moved to third on an error, but Weinhardt got three outs without allowing Henry to score.
Meanwhile the Mud Hens struggled against Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa, one of Boston’s top prospects. Castellanos lined a double in the left-center gap to lead off the second, but later in that inning was thrown out trying to advance to third on a groundout.
And that was the only baserunner De La Rosa allowed in his six innings of work, striking out seven.
When Pawtucket brought on reliever Clayton Mortensen, the Mud Hens pounced. Mortensen struck out the first two Toledo batters he faced before walking Castellanos.
Dorn then drove the next pitch over the fence in right for his team-leading 14th home run of the season.
The Mud Hens nearly gave up their one-run lead in the eighth. Jose Ortega gave up a leadoff double on a high fly ball down the right-field line by Bradley, then threw wildly to first on a sacrifice attempt by Drew Sutton.
Sutton was running on Maier’s grounder back to the mound, putting runners on second and third with one out. Ortega intentionally walked Brentz to load the bases, then wiggled out of the jam with an infield popout and a fly out.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 1:16 by rain, and much of the contest was played in a steady shower. … The crowd of 10,500 was the Mud Hens’ 11th sellout this seasony.