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Clip & Dirty: 8/23

Clip & Dirty: 8/23
August 24, 2010
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The Columbus Clippers are in the thick of a competitive IL-West divisional race with the Lousiville Bats. The Clippers went into last night’s matchup with the Toledo Mud Hens knowing that Louisville was only a ½ game ahead in the standings and that they had to win in order to keep pace down the stretch.

Things looked good as Columbus jumped out to an early lead on the strength of a HR from newly acquired infielder, Drew Sutton. Sutton drew more blood in the 5th when he singled in Argenis Reyes who had doubled to lead off the inning. The Mud Hens tied the game at 2-2 by stringing together 3 hits to start the top of the 6th, but Huff induced a GIDP and escaped more serious damage. Wes Hodges put the Clippers up 3-2 in the bottom of the 6th by taking a ball deep to the opposite field. However the Mud Hens tied things up again in the 7th setting the stage for a dramatic finish.

Cord Phelps came on to pinch-hit for the struggling Josh Rodriguez, but was unable to on base. Luke Carlin, a catcher recently acquired from the Pirates for some organizational depth, drew a walk and Argenis Reyes appeared to hit into a inning-ending double play, but Toledo reliever, Robbie Weinhardt’s throw pulled Cale Iorg off the bag and the Clippers had something going. Ezequiel Carrera’s speed once again paid dividends as he was able to beat the throw to first on a groundball deflected by Weinhardt. With the bases loaded and one down, Drew Sutton stepped to the plate and delivered a shallow flyball that would have scored most runners, but Luke Carlin is not exactly Kenny Lofton and he was never even sent. Matt McBride entered the box with the bases juiced and two down. After fouling off an inside fastball he pulled the second pitch to the left side of the infield and though Mud Hen SS, Cale Iorg, was able to reach the ball, McBride was safe at first for a game-winning infield single.

The Clippers are still ½ a game behind the Bats as Lousiville held serve and beat the Indianapolis Indians, but the Clippers snapped their losing streak and are looking to jump into 1st as they travel to Toledo for the away portion of their home-and-away series with the Mud Hens.

Team Hitting: 4R, 11H, 4XBH, 3BB, 0SB, 2GIDP, 2 Sac Bunt (read: unnecessary outs)

The Clippers have struggled to score since the promotion of so many of their top players, but they were able to eek out just enough to get the job done. Wes Hodges (3-4, HR, 2B) and Drew Sutton (2-4, HR, 2RBI, BB) were the offensive stars of the night, despite the fact that McBride was the one getting a shaving-cream pie to the face after the game.

Team Pitching: 3(3) R(ER), 8H, 3BB, 8SO, 66% strikes, 58% GB

David Huff had another Quality Start which made for his 6th in his last 10 outings. He is proving to be a workhorse pitcher that can go for 6 or more innings nearly every time out. He has pitched six or more innings in 8 of his last 10 starts and seven or more innings in 8 of his last 10. He doesn’t have dominant stuff, but if he can learn how to translate this kind of durable and reliable performance to the Major League level, he will be an extremely valuable piece to the Indians plans for contention, considering his inexpensive cost.

Huff pitched seven solid innings, but I want to talk about the last two. Josh Judy was lights out and he looked like the kind of arm that an elite Major League bullpen is comprised of. Josh Judy came on in relief in the 8th and he looked great right out of the gates. His fastball sat 92-94 with good control both up and down the zone and his slider was a true strikeout pitch. He threw 20 of his 26 pitches for strikes. He struck out three batters in his two innings of work and set the stage for the Clippers to win it in the 9th.

He has thrown 39 innings at AAA this year and has put up an electric 10.38 K/9 rate while only giving up 2.77 BB/9. He has had a 356 batting average against which is slightly unlucky. If you were to neutralize his luck (assume a luck-neutral batting average against, and a standard HR/FB rate) his expected ERA would be in the low 3’s, which shows his 2.92 ERA is not just the product of a small sample-size and a couple lucky breaks. He should be in the running, along with Vinnie Pestano to take some of the bullpen spots in 2011 for the Indians.

The Clippers travel to Toledo to continue their home-and-away series with the Mud Hens and will send freshly-minted Clipper, Zach McAllister, to the hill in his Columbus debut. He will be opposed by Toledo lefty, Andrew Oliver.

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