The Mud Hens’ pursuit of a potential playoff berth took another hit Saturday.
Toledo managed just three hits and suffered a 4-2 loss to Lehigh Valley at Fifth Third Field. The team’s third straight loss pushed it into last place in the International League’s West Division, 6½ games behind first-place Columbus with 22 to play.
James McCann, whose home run in the eighth accounted for the team’s final run, said the roller-coaster ride that has been the 2014 season has been tough to handle.
“We won five in a row right after the All-Star break, and then we went to Norfolk and lost four in a row,” he said. “Then we bounced back and won three, and now we’ve lost three.
“It has been frustrating, but what can you do? You can’t hang your head; you have to come back and get them the next day.”
McCann said part of the frustration stems from the Hens’ ability to stay close, yet not get over the hump and claim the win.
“It’s not like we’re getting killed out there,” he said. “We’re one hit away. If we can find one hit here, one hit there, and it could be 4-2 us instead of 4-2 them.
“That would make it easier for our pitchers to pitch, because they could relax and not face a pressure situation with every pitch.”
On Friday, the Hens’ offense struggled because of its inability to get a big hit as Toledo went 1-for-14 when batting with a runner in scoring position. Saturday, the problem was getting runners on base: the Hens had only six base-runners advance past first base.
“On Friday we thought, ‘Somebody is going to get a big hit and this is going to roll in our favor eventually,’” Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “In this game, it was a quiet night.”
Lehigh Valley broke on top in the first when, with two outs, Maikel Franco singled and then scored on a double by Russ Canzler.
From that point until the seventh, Toledo starter Derek Hankins held the IronPigs in check, allowing just three hits.
“He threw well — the only run scored on a double that didn’t get to the warning track, yet the guy scored from first,” Parrish said.
In the seventh, things fell apart for Hankins as he walked Canzler after getting ahead of him 0-2. One out later, Canzler came home on a double by Tyler Henson, and Cameron Perkins followed with a two-run homer to left.
“He made a good pitch on 0-2, but [Canzler] didn’t swing at it and it was off the plate,” Parrish said. “Then he got frustrated and threw the ball over the plate and gave up three runs he didn’t have to give up. To me, that’s a mental breakdown.”
NOTES: The Mud Hens wore jerseys representing the Toledo Crawfords, a Negro League team that played in the Glass City in 1939. The game was called “Toledo Baseball History Night” and the jerseys were auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the Negro League Baseball Museum. … Saturday’s crowd of 11,000 was the Mud Hens 22nd sellout this season.