In what could prove to be a tough, final game of the 2018 season at Fifth Third Field, the Toledo Mud Hens let two one-run leads disappear and saw a late comeback fall short as they suffered a 6-5 setback to the Durham Bulls on Thursday night.
In Game 2 of the International League semifinals, the Hens led 2-1 after two innings and 3-2 after four innings. But Durham tied it back up both times and took the lead for good with a three-run eighth inning before a crowd of 4,816 at Fifth Third Field.
The best-of-five series is now tied at 1. The Mud Hens had seized a 1-0 lead in the opening-round series with a 10-3 win at Fifth Third Field on Wednesday. The rest of the best-of-5 series now shifts to Durham. The Hens now face a 13-hour bus trip with Game 3 set for Friday at 7:05. Game 4 is Saturday at 6:35 and Game 5 is Sunday at 5:35, if necessary.
“We start from scratch again tomorrow and it's the best two out of three,” Hens manager Doug Mientkiewicz said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Game 2 of IL semifinals
Down 6-3 to start the bottom of the ninth, Hens designated hitter Chad Huffman led off the ninth with a double and Jason Krizan walked. Willi Castro, who homered earlier in the game, then doubled in Huffman to make it 6-4. With the bases loaded and no outs, Harold Castro made it 6-5 with a sacrifice fly.
“Their bullpen is as good as it gets. So to get their closer [Ian Gibaut] out of there … I'm proud of our guys,” Mientkiewicz said.
With runners at first and second with one out, pinch hitter Dixon Machado then sent a soft liner to shortstop and the Bulls doubled off Willi Castro at second base to instantly end the game.
“That one play did not lose us the game,” Mientkiewicz said. “There were a lot of chances we had and a lot of pitches we made. And without Willi tonight we're not in that position. It's minor league baseball and we're still learning. But our base running has to get better. It's stuff we have to clean up.”
Castro finished 3 of 4 and drove in two runs.
“It's stuff that happens in the game. You have to keep your head up,” Castro said. “I drove one to the gap. I focus on that. You have to focus on the next game.”
Durham grabbed a 5-3 lead in the eighth as Micah Johnson crushed the ball over the head of Hens center fielder Daz Cameron for a two-run triple. The Bulls then added an insurance run on a sac fly by Roberto Pena to make it 6-3.
Hens reliever Zac Reininger, who inherited a runner with no outs, gave up all three runs and was charged with two earned runs. Toledo then went down in order in the eighth.
The Mud Hens No. 1 through 4 hitters were a combined 3-for-15 with seven strikeouts.
“We never quite got a chance to add to the lead,” Mientkiewicz said.
The Mud Hens are playing after Labor Day for the first time since 2007, the last time Toledo earned a postseason berth.
Durham, who is the defending IL champions, eliminated the Mud Hens in the playoffs in 2002 and 2007. The Bulls swept Toledo in both semifinal series. The Hens are now 1-7 against Durham in the playoffs.
Toledo is looking to make it back to the championship series for the first time since 2006 when it won the second of back-to-back IL titles.
Toledo, which fought its way into the playoffs after being 5.5 games back on Aug. 10, has won seven of its last 10 road games.
If the Hens take the series they would advance the Governor's Cup final. That IL championship series would begin on the road on Sept. 11. Toledo would return home to host Game 3 on Thursday, Sept. 13. Games 4 and 5 also would be at Fifth Third Field, if necessary. Scranton Wilkes-Barre is playing Lehigh Valley in the other IL semifinal.
“We just have to keep working hard,” Castro said.
In the bottom of the fourth, Castro launched a blast to right-center field for his first home run of the postseason to put Toledo up 3-2. But Durham tied it back up at 3 on a sac line out to right in the fifth.
VIDEO: Bulls 6, Mud Hens 5
Toledo trailed 1-0 in the second, when it quickly erupted for two runs to take a 2-1 lead.
Willi Castro beat the Bulls' defensive shift with a single the opposite way to left-field. Cameron then smacked a sharp line drive to center field that bounced all the way to the fence, scoring Castro to tie it at 1. Cameron went 3 for 3 with two RBIs in Toledo's win in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Harold Castro then doubled off the wall in right field to plate Cameron to put Toledo up by a run.
But that lead would be very short-lived as the Bulls tied it back up in the top of the third on a sac fly from Brandon Snyder.
Durham took its first lead of the series when designated hitter Johnson came up with a clutch, tough RBI single on an 1-2 count in the second inning. On the nice piece of hitting that took nine pitches, Johnson singled to right to give the Bulls the early 1-0 lead. With runners at first and third and one out, Hens starter Jacob Turner avoided further trouble as his team turned a double play from second baseman Pete Kozma to shortstop Willi Castro to end the threat.
Turner, who was making his postseason debut, lasted six innings and gave up three earned runs on nine hits. He struck out two and threw 91 pitches.
NOTES: Toledo is now 6-6 against Durham this season, and 4-1 against the Bulls at Fifth Third Field. … The Tigers claimed OF Dustin Peterson off waivers from Atlanta on Thursday and optioned him to Toledo.
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