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Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish spent last season watching first-year players struggle to make basic plays consistently while managing at Lo-A West Michigan.
Parrish may have flashed back to his time with the Whitecaps as Toledo made three errors, surrendered seven walks, and threw three wild pitches in an 8-6 loss Wednesday night to Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field.
“That’s something we have to get better at,” Parrish said. “Errors are the human element in the game, but walking hitters and ‘spiking’ fastballs in front of home plate.
“We have to be better than that. This is Triple-A. We shouldn’t be firing bullets in front of home plate.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens defeated by Indianapolis
Toledo starter Duane Below, who had not pitched since the last day of spring training in late March, struggled with his command. The Britton, Mich., native reached a three-ball count with seven different batters and threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of the 21 hitters he faced.
“You don’t want to make excuses,” Below said. “I just wanted to give the team a chance to win.
“I wasn’t as comfortable as I normally am; I was fighting my mechanics a little bit.”
And that’s what Below did, pitching around four walks to give up one run in the second on a bases-loaded double play and another in the third on a home run by Chris Dickerson.
“I don’t like walking four guys, because there’s no defense for that,” Below said. “It was just a tough game.”
But the Mud Hens bullpen struggled behind Below. Jhan Marinez allowed three hits and a walk in the sixth, and those elements combined with an error by Brandon Douglas at third base produced three runs.
Casey Crosby gave up two hits and a walk in the seventh, and that combined with a throwing error by Danny Worth at second base allowed Indianapolis to score two more runs.
And Melvin Mercedes was unable to pitch around another Douglas error in the ninth, throwing a wild pitch and then allowing a single and a sacrifice fly to produce another run.
Four of the Indians eight runs were unearned.
“If we have a defensive glitch, we can’t pitch around it,” Parrish said. “It’s like we’re having trouble just getting the ball in the strike zone, with no thought of throwing a particular pitch in a certain spot.”
The Mud Hens did score runs in the third on a bases-loaded ground by J.D. Martinez, then added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by James McCann.
The Hens then made a late run at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by scoring four runs in the final two innings off former Toledo reliever Andy Oliver, who allowed three hits and walked three.
In the eighth Ezequiel Carrera walked, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Mike Hessman.
“We did take advantage of it [our late opportunities], but that’s what we were doing for the other team, too,” Parrish said. “[Oliver] just turned around and handed some of it back to us.
“When you put guys on base, that puts more pressure on the defense — and that’s when things happen.”
Things got interesting in the ninth when Carrera lined a bases-loaded two-run double down the left-field line, and a long drive to left-center by Hernan Perez was caught on the warning track and ended up as a sacrifice fly. When Martinez was hit by a pitch, that put the potential game-tying runs on base with one out.
But Indians’ reliever Jared Hughes got Hessman to hit into a game-ending double play to earn his second save in as many days.
“That’s the reality of it. We didn’t play as sharp a game as we could have,” said Ben Guez, who had three singles as part of a nine-hit attack and also was hit by a pitch. “Had we done that, we’d like to think the outcome would have been in our favor.”
NOTES: Carrera also singled in the third to extend his season-opening hit streak to six games. … Daniel Fields was 0-for-3 and saw five-game hit streak end. … The crowd for was announced as 3,813.