Carson’s triple in 8th sets up 2-1 victory for Columbus
COLUMBUS- Perhaps it was the “lucky” green uniforms the Clippers were wearing on Irish Heritage Night at Huntington Park or maybe it was the clutch hitting in the bottom of the eighth inning. Regardless, Columbus prevailed against the Toledo Mud Hens Friday with a narrow 2-1 victory.
With one out and the score tied at one, right fielder Matt Carson scorched a screaming ball into the left-center gap off of reliever Brayan Villarreal and motored all the way around the bases for a triple. Shortstop Luis Hernandez then gave Columbus the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout that bounced over Villarreal’s head.
"Huge at bat right there," Columbus manager Chris Tremie said of Carson’s three-bagger. "Even to expand on that, the triple’s great but then the great read on the chopper to score was the turning point in the game."
Closer Preston Guilmet entered the game in the ninth and shut the door on the Mud Hens to secure the team’s first series win since May 20 against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
Getting that elephant off their back was a welcoming feeling for Tremie and his team.
"Well, it feels better than not winning a series," Tremie said with a slight chuckle. "It’s two games but you know, winning two in a row and coming off the way we’ve been playing lately, we’ve been playing progressively better than we did through the period of late June and the early part of July. I think that’s what this team is capable of and we’ll just try to continue to do that."
Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka was excellent in what might have been his finest performance of the season. The pitcher tossed seven solid frames, surrendering one run on six hits with an impressive nine strikeouts and two walks.
"The good command of his fastball tonight and the way he threw his secondary pitches with good action on them and kept it down in the zone was great," Tremie said. "He was in control the whole game and he made a lot of good pitches in key situations."
This marks the second-consecutive outing where Matsuzaka has thrown the ball well. Tremie said that his recent improvements are certainly a good sign for the starter’s future.
"think this was a notch above that (Matsuzaka’s previous start)," Tremie said. "I thought he commanded the ball more consistently this outing than he did in the last outing. His velocity was up just a little bit. You know, he looked strong going through seven innings, getting late in the game and that’s very promising."
Heads up base running by center fielder Tim Fedroff lead to the Clippers’ first run in the bottom of the third inning. After ripping a single into right, Fedroff advanced to second on a well executed hit-and-run with left fielder Ezequiel Carrera up to bat. Once pitcher Kyle Lobstein made his notion toward the plate, Fedroff jetted for second and Carrera bounced a slow grounder on the right side of the infield to secure the play. First baseman Chun-Hsiu Chen followed by scorching a sharp base hit into left. Fedroff motored around third and challenged the arm of left fielder Nick Castellanos before sliding safely under the tag at home.
Matsuzaka was reeling from the get-go, fooling the Mud Hen offense with crisp off-speed pitches reminiscent of his glory days with the Boston Red Sox. Through the first four innings of play, "Dice-K" fanned six batters and allowed just two hits.
The Japan-native encountered a bit of trouble in the following two innings but labored through them allowing a single run. In the top of the fifth, the first two hitters reached base safely on singles. Shortstop Argenis Diaz tagged to third on a deep fly ball to center to place runners at the corners. Matsuzaka kept his composure however and forced first baseman Jordan Lennerton to fly out to left to end the threat.
Left fielder Nick Castellanos belted a lead off solo home run to center in the sixth to tie the game up at 1-1. With designated hitter Danny Dorn on first after a single, catcher Bryan Holaday smoked what appeared to be a extra base hit in the right-center gap but the fleet-footed Fedroff raced over to make a spectacular running catch. Dorn was rounding second as Fedroff caught the ball but quickly attempted to make it back to first before he was doubled-off on the throw.
Columbus reliever Blake Wood (1-0, 0.00) picked up the win with an electric eighth inning where he struckout the side on 17 pitches. Villarreal (2-2, 3.15 ERA) was charged with the loss.
The sweep of the Mud Hens nudges the Clippers closer to .500 at 44-52.
Columbus will travel to Indianapolis Saturday for their final series before the All-Star break. The remainder of the previous game on July 10 (4-4 tie in the 12th inning) will be played before the regularly scheduled contest. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-2, 4.06 ERA) will get the nod for the Clippers and will face off against fellow righty Brandon Cumpton (4-5, 3.69 ERA) of the Indians. Action is set to commence at 7:05 p.m.