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Here’s how you know the Mud Hens were desperate to get a little offense going Thursday: Mike Hessman stole a base.
“I’m good for one a year,” he joked.
Actually, that’s not exactly true: His steal against Columbus was the 38th in his 17-year pro career. It also was his first since July 21, 2009 — in his last season with the Mud Hens before this year, and roughly five years ago.
Unfortunately, Hessman’s steal didn’t result in any runs, and the Hens suffered a 3-0 loss to Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens take on Clippers
The biggest culprit in Toledo’s third straight loss was an offense that managed just four hits, advanced only one runner to third base, and saw the last 12 hitters retired in order.
“If you look at our averages, we have a couple of guys who haven’t hit their stride, but our overall average isn’t that bad,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said of his team, which has a .254 batting average. “We’re just not timing them up right now.
“We’re not getting timely hits. If we hit the ball, it seems it’s right at somebody.”
Hessman’s second-inning steal was a perfect example of that. He opened the inning with a single off Columbus starter T.J. House, then said he wasn’t surprised when he was told to set sail for second on a 3-2 pitch to Ben Guez.
“No, it wasn’t an opportunity [to steal a base] — it was a chance to get some guys in motion and make something happen,” Hessman said. “[Parrish] is aggressive and likes to make stuff happen, so when it got to that count I had a feeling I might be on the move.”
Guez struck out, but Hessman was safe to move into scoring position. The next hitter, James McCann, hit a hard line drive that was caught by Clippers shortstop Justin Sellers, and Jordan Lennerton was retired on a slow roller in front of the plate.
“McCann hit a line drive — right at the shortstop for an out,” Parrish said. “We had a chance to score a run, and the hitter hit the ball hard. But it was an out.”
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The Hens had a chance to score in the fourth when Hessman singled with two outs and Guez doubled him to third, but McCann fouled out to first. The only other baserunners Toledo had against House and Columbus relievers Scott Barnes, Nick Hagadone, and Vinnie Pestano were a walk to Lennerton in the fifth and an infield single in the sixth by Ezequiel Carrera.
“It’s not like we’re hitting against batting practice — the last couple of nights you have to give some credit to the other team,” Parrish said. “We saw three lefties who were throwing ‘plus’ fastballs up there.”
The only thing that kept the Mud Hens in the contest was a strong effort by starter Robbie Ray, who allowed six hits and one walk while fanning three in six innings.
His only mistake came in the third when, with one out and a runner on first, Ray served up a 3-2 pitch that Jose Ramirez pounded over the fence in left for a two-run homer.
“He had the leadoff guy up there, and he was probably thinking, ‘Don’t walk this guy.’ And he didn’t walk him — the guy ‘jumped ship’ on him,” Parrish said.
The Clippers added a run in the seventh off reliever Casey Crosby when Matt Carson singled, took second on a four-pitch walk to ninth-place hitter Roberto Perez, and scored on a two-out single by Nyjer Morgan.
It just added to the frustration for Parrish, who has seen his team collect just three runs in the last three games after scoring 26 in the two prior to this streak.
“It’s not like we’re kicking the ball around or getting blown out,” he said. “We are just scoring less than the other team.”
NOTE: After the game, pitcher Justin Miller was promoted to Detroit. Miller allowed just three hits while striking out six in 4 2/3 innings with the Hens.