Clippers beat the heat and Tides, win 6-3
COLUMBUS—Battling record-high temperatures and the Norfolk Tides, the Clippers found a way to win for the fifth time in six games Thursday night.
Playing in front of 7,488 fans at Huntington Park, and amidst 100-degree temperatures—the hottest day in Columbus in more than a decade—the Clippers beat the Tides, 6-3. Columbus has now won two of its first three games in its four-game series against Norfolk. The Clippers won the opening game Tuesday night, 4-3, before falling on Wednesday, 3-1.
While steamy weather often propels most people to relax, Columbus center fielder Ezequiel Carrera decided to take another route. He ran, early and often against the Tides, putting himself in scoring position and sparking the Clippers’ offense at the top of the lineup.
Carrera, who went 2-for-4 with three runs scored, reached base in each of his first three at-bats. More impressive, though, was his base running. Carrera stole second-and-third base in the first before scoring, and added two more steals in the third and fourth inning, respectively. Carrera had four stolen bases, tying a Columbus record.
“(Carrera) had a good night, he played well,” Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said. “It was good to see him out there being aggressive on the bases.”
Columbus first baseman Matt LaPorta was a force as well, driving in Carrera in the first and in the third. LaPorta went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
MLB journeyman Dontrelle Willis, starting for Norfolk, was beaten around early by the Clippers’ bats and did not last amidst the Columbus heat very long.
The left-hander was taken out after throwing 70 pitches through 2.1 innings. He struggled with command; walking two Clippers and rarely getting ahead in the count.
For the most part, the Norfolk bullpen had success replacing Willis, but not before the Clippers added to their lead in the fourth, scoring two runs.
After LaPorta muscled an inside fastball into center field, scoring Carrera in the first, the Clippers stringed three-clutch hits together in the third and ended Willis’ outing.
With two outs and Carrera on second base, LaPorta singled to left field, plating the Clippers’ center fielder. A double down the left-field line by first baseman Russ Canzler and a single to right field by third baseman Jared Goedert followed, putting Columbus back in the lead, 4-2.
“I thought we did a nice job early, working some counts. (Willis) pitch count got up there, I think he had 60-something (pitches) in the third inning. If we can do that to starters, it really helps getting into the bullpen,” Sarbaugh said. “(Norfolk) has a really good bullpen but when you can get the starter out of there that usually means good things.”
Columbus right-hander Toru Murata, like Willis, did not have a lengthy start, but for different reasons.
The Japanese right-hander had a rough second inning, allowing two runs, but seemed to settle down. He retired the side in the third, and sent the first two batters he faced in the fourth back to the dugout. Murata, suffering from cramps, was then removed from the game.
The Columbus bullpen did the job in relief, throwing five-scoreless frames before allowing a run in the top of the ninth. Left-hander Eric Berger pitched 3.1-shutout innings and right-hander’s Dan Wheeler and Cody Allen combined to preserve the win in the eighth and ninth inning.
“With a spot start like (Murata), guys really stepped up. The bullpen did a nice job,” Sarbaugh said.
Columbus and Norfolk will conclude their four-game set on Friday at 7:05 p.m. The Clippers will be looking to win their second-straight series after taking three of four games from Lehigh Valley at the beginning of the week.