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The Mud Hens certainly had plenty of chances to win Monday.
But Toledo’s inability to take advantage of its opportunities, especially at the plate, was the difference in a 4-2 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Fifth Third Field.
The Hens had just one hit with a runner in scoring position to waste several promising scoring opportunities.
“It’s just hard to win games when you don’t get hits with runners in scoring position,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Toledo vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Toledo’s start looked promising as Ezequiel Carrera opened the bottom of the first with a walk, and one batter later Tyler Collins smashed a two-run home run to right field. It was his ninth homer this season and his second in as many nights.
But from that point, the Hens never managed to collect a key hit when they had a scoring opportunity.
Their troubles began in the third when Danny Worth walked and stole second, and Carrera walked before the two combined for a double steal that put runners on second and third with nobody out.
Hernan Perez smoked a hard grounder to third that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Scott Sizemore gloved and threw to first to turn a possible hit into an out.
“Sizemore made a pretty good play there — the ball was hit hard, and he picked it,” Parrish said. “But we still had runners on second and third, and there was only one out.”
Collins then hit the ball back to the mound, but RailRiders starter Shane Greene spent too much time trying to get Worth back to third and Collins was safe at first.
But with the bases loaded, Wade Gaynor struck out and James McCann grounded out.
The most painful failure came in the eighth when, with two outs and no one on, Collins walked and Gaynor singled him to third. McCann hit a grounder to third that Sizemore gloved and double-clutched, then threw wildly to first.
But first-base ump Brian De Brauwere, shielded as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre first baseman Kyle Roller lunged toward him to catch the ball, incorrectly called McCann out to end the inning.
“[De Brauwere] said he thought [Roller] still had his toe on the bag,” Parrish said. “If we get that run, it’s a one-run game [and we are still batting].”
In the ninth, the Mud Hens had one more chance as Trevor Crowe and Ben Guez started the inning with back-to-back singles. Jordan Lennerton sacrificed them up a base, but Worth was called out on strikes and Carrera’s fly to center was caught to end the game.
Toledo’s 1-for-9 effort with runners in scoring position made a loser out of starter Drew VerHagen, who rebounded from a rough start to pitch into the seventh inning.
VerHagen gave up two hits and a run in the first, then saw the RailRiders stack together four straight two-out singles to score three more times in the second.
“If we would have had more [arms available] in the bullpen, we would have had someone up,” Parrish said. “He sure didn’t look like he would get into the seventh inning.”
VerHagen struck out Sizemore to end the second, then gave up two singles to start the third. But after that, he was in command, retiring the next 12 hitters in a row before giving up a one-out single in the seventh.
“At that point it’s 4-2, and my only job is to keep the team within striking distance,” VerHagen said. “I just tried to get as deep into the game as I could to save the bullpen.”
NOTES: Mike Hessman was again out of the Mud Hens lineup because of continued wrist problems. He did not take batting practice Monday, and Parrish said it is “doubtful” Hessman will play in this series. … Toledo’s Hernan Perez was named International League player of the week Monday. In six games he hit .500 with seven extra-base hits, eight runs scored and six RBIs.