It was only one game.
Unless you want to consider the 6-2 loss the Mud Hens suffered against Columbus on Friday more of a death knell.
While “death knell” may be premature, Toledo’s fragile playoff hopes certainly suffered a blow as the loss pushed the team three games under the .500 mark for the season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens fall to Clippers 6-2
Worse, the Mud Hens now trail the first-place Clippers by seven games in the International League West with 17 games to play.
“It was frustrating because we wanted to take it to them, and we didn’t,” outfielder Ben Guez said. “We still have a little more time left, so we’ll have to come back out, do the job better, and see what we can do.”
The loss dropped the Hens “tragic” number for elimination from the Governors’ Cup playoff race to 11 and put an even greater premium on the final nine meetings of the two teams.
Toledo needs to win eight of those final nine contests just to break even in the standings.
“Mathematically we’re still in this, but we’ve got to beat that team — a lot,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said.
“We can’t split with them, we can’t just win a series. We’ve got to win.”
Friday’s contest could not have had a worse start for Toledo.
With two outs and a man on base, Giovanny Urshela launched a high fly down the left-field line that landed just fair — and just over the fence for a two-run homer.
The Clippers made it 3-0 in the second when Hens starter Duane Hankins gave up a leadoff triple to Matt Carson and an RBI single by Justin Sellers.
In the third, Hankins was unable to retire a batter, giving up a single, a walk, a run-scoring single by Urshela, and an RBI double by Audy Ciriaco.
“Hankins just wasn’t sharp,” Parrish said.
Fortunately, Kenny Faulk and the Mud Hens bullpen was.
Faulk relieved Hankins with runners on second and third and none out and did not allow another run, then added two more scoreless innings.
“Faulk was great,” Parrish said. “He got out of that inning, and gave us three innings of shutout ball.
“The bullpen did a great job. They held them [at five runs] and gave us a chance.”
Jose Ortega followed with two scoreless innings and Evan Reed retired all three hitters he faced in the eighth before Jim Johnson allowed a run in the ninth.
Johnson gave up a single to Lindor on a 3-1 pitch, then allowed a one-out hit-and-run single to Jesus Aguilar to put runners on first and third.
Johnson got Urshela to hit a high hopper over the mound that prevented the Hens from getting a double play and allowed Lindor to score from third.
“I thought he threw better than his results,” Parrish said of Johnson. “The guy has good movement on his pitches.
“Then with Aguilar, he threw good pitches, but he missed. And the guy hit a line drive. Then we got a ground ball, but he jammed the guy so badly, we couldn’t turn the double play.”
That was far too many runs for the Toledo offense to overcome. The Hens managed just six hits and two walks after scoring double-digit runs in each of the previous two games.
Columbus starter Tyler Cloyd allowed only two runs on solo homers by Guez in the second and James McCann in the fourth.
The only other challenge he faced came in the sixth, an inning that began with a hard grounder to third by Hernan Perez that was turned into an out on a spectacular play by Urshela.
Jordan Lennerton walked and McCann singled, but Mike Hessman hit into an inning-ending double play.
“If you ask our hitters, we think we should have [hit] that guy better than we did,” said Guez, whose homer was his 15th this season.
“But he did his job: He kept us off-balance, and we didn’t capitalize when we got opportunities.”
NOTES: After the game, Toledo sent pitcher Chad Smith to Double-A Erie. The Hens will activate pitcher Daniel Schlereth from the temporary inactive list to take his place. … Outfielder Andy Dirks will begin a rehab assignment with the Mud Hens tonight. Dirks has not played for Detroit this season because of a back problem, and has had several rehab assignments scuttled by various nagging injuries. … Friday’s crowd of 10,300 was Toledo’s 24th sellout this season.
The Mud Hens’ Ben Guez hits a home run against the Columbus Clippers during the second inning on Friday. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH