Wizards flirt with no-no; Hensley outing wasted

No hit ball until one out in the ninth for the Fort Wayne Wizards. A gem, foreseen by Clay Hensley, went to waste in Portland. Brad Baker, a sure thing a year ago, has blown three saves this season and took an extra innings loss. Mobile was trounced. Lake Elsinore had the game won but the relief corps faltered, including Paul Abraham for the first time all year.

Portland lost 7-4 in 10

"I want to throw a shutout, score a few runs, and win the game," Clay Hensley prophesized hours before the game in an interview with MadFriars.com. "We haven't really played them much so we don't know too much about their hitters. All I can do is check out what I saw yesterday and see what some other guys saw and attack them."

True to his word, Hensley cruised through seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out five. In four starts this year for Portland, the right-hander has allowed six runs. In 26 innings of work he has allowed 15 hits for a .163 batting average against. He also worked the stick, laying down two sacrifice bunts.

Unfortunately, the pen blew the lead in the ninth inning. An error by J.J. Furmaniak, his second in as many games, allowed one run to score and Brad Baker, in relief of Mike Bumstead, gave up a three run home run to the first man he faced for his third blown save of the year – more than he had in all of 2004. Baker came on to pitch the tenth inning and gave up three more runs, ending his night. The closer was charged with four runs on four hits and three walks. It is the second time this year he has given up four runs in an outing.

Jason Kershner made his first appearances with Portland on Friday. Picked up from the Boston organization where he was playing in Pawtucket, Kershner pitched one inning, striking out one. The right-hander had allowed 12 runs in 19 innings of work with Pawtucket and his batting average against was .312. He had one stretch of appearances where he allowed a run in five straight.

Mobile lost 7-0

Brian Whitaker pitched six innings and ended his night on the hook with six runs, two earned, on eight hits and a walk. He has allowed four runs or more in five of his last six starts and has given up eight hits or more in four starts this year. The opposition is hitting .321 off the right-hander and his WHIP stands at 1.62.

Greg Sain extended his season-high hitting streak to eight games, going 1-for-4. His streak of four straight games with a run scored, however, was snapped. Sain has struck out just twice in the last nine games and his current streak of five games without a whiff is his longest of the year.

Corey Smith committed two errors to account for four unearned runs. For Smith, who leads the team in the dubious category with 12, it was his first multi-error game of the year. The third baseman committed 44 errors last year with Double-A Akron. He is on pace for 40 errors this year.

Lake Elsinore lost 8-7 in 10

Arturo Lopez was yanked after throwing five masterful innings. He allowed one unearned run on a season-low three hits while striking out eight. It was the second straight game that he fanned eight after not striking out more than three in his previous five starts. He also did not walk a batter for the second straight outing. The left-hander has allowed two runs, one earned, over his last 11 innings of work.

For the first time this year Paul Abraham allowed an earned run – and it wasn't just one but two runs crossed the plate with the Storm holding a one run lead. He served up a two-run homer in the eighth after going 23 innings without surrendering an earned run. He came into the game with a .154 batting average against but allowed a season-high four hits. Abraham pitched on consecutive days for the third time this season and went two innings for the third time as well. Ironically, the right-hander was in position to record the win when the Storm scored two in the tenth but Leo Rosales blew the save, yielding a three run homer in the bottom half of the inning.

"Streaks are streaks," said Abraham. "I just try to think about my job out there."

Steve Baker extended his hitting streak to eight games, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI's. He was also hit by a pitch for the second day in a row. The outfielder, hitting .360 on the year, is ranked third in the California League in batting average, pending the outcome of Friday's games. He has eight RBI's in his last six games and nine runs scored over the streak.

Fort Wayne won 1-0

History was almost made at the Castle. Wizards' pitching allowed just one hit on the night and it came in the ninth inning. Yordany Ramirez made a remarkable catch in the fourth inning to preserve the lead and the win. With two men on via walks, Ramirez laid out to make the catch. The only hit of the day came by way of an infield hit with one out in the ninth off closer Matt Varner that bounced off the glove of Sean Kazmar. Fort Wayne pitching did yield seven walks on the evening.

The only no-hitter in the history of the Fort Wayne Wizards was by Tom Ott May 24, 1995. Brian Whitaker had a no-hitter in the ninth two years ago before allowing a one-out hit.

Luke Steidlmayer pitched 5.1 innings of hitless ball, allowing four walks and striking out five to get his first win as a starter this year. The righty is holing the opposition to a .165 batting average on the year and has a 0.53 ERA at home. Steidlmayer had come into the game having walked six in 25.1 innings of work. After the opposition went 0-for-3 off him with runners in scoring position, he lowered his batting average against to .032 in such situations, 1-for-31.

Ricky Steik has gone 12 straight appearances without allowing a run. At Memorial Stadium, the right-hander has not allowed a run all year, a span of 9.1 innings. While the opposition is hitting .292 off him away from home, they are batting just .194 off him in Fort Wayne.

Peter Ciofrone reached base all four times he came to the dish. He went 2-for-2 with two walks. He is the only regular with more walks (15) than strikeouts (12). After hitting .167 during the month of April, Ciofrone is hitting .333 in May and all six of his extra base hits have come this month.

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