COLUMBUS – The Columbus Clippers (64-59) were unable to overcome an early deficit on Sunday night and fell to the division-leading Indianapolis Indians (74-49) by a final score of 5-4.
Clippers starter Matt Packer (0-2, 6.75 ERA) first ran into trouble in the second inning, as the Indians were able to put together an impressive four-run rally. Third baseman Yamaico Navarro got things going with a solo shot to left center – his eighth home run of the year – to make it 1-0. The next three runs came with two outs, as center fielder Alex Presley brought two in on a ground ball single up the middle and right fielder Jose Tabata got an RBI on a ground ball through the hole and into right. This inning frustrated the Clippers and put them in a big hole early.
Columbus was able to get one run back in the third inning. The Clippers got their first baserunner of the game when catcher Luke Carlin launched a double to right center field. The next batter, center fielder Aaron Cunningham, got a double of his own to left center field that brought Carlin home and made it 4-1.
While the Clippers offense attempted to climb back into the game, Packer turned his game around and was able to hold the Indians at four. He ultimately survived 6.1 innings, and in that time allowed five runs on 10 hits. He walked two and struck out four on the night, but ultimately got credit for the loss. This was Packer’s second start in a Columbus uniform after coming up from the Akron Aeros.
Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh said after the game that he was happy with Packer’s effort after the initially rough start.
“In the second inning (Packer) left some balls over the plate and they put good swings on them,” Sarbaugh said. “With a good team, that’s going to happen. I was very happy with the adjustments Matt made and he didn’t let that inning affect him. He was able to get into the seventh inning and he threw the ball well.”
The Clippers crawled a bit closer in the sixth inning, but a potential huge frame ended with just one run. Left fielder Tim Fedroff led the inning off with a triple to straightaway center. Right fielder Vinny Rottino brought Fedroff in two batters later with a sacrifice fly, but Columbus couldn’t do anything else with the momentum. They went into the final three frames still down 4-2.
The biggest reason for the Clippers’ offensive struggles early was Indianapolis starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera (6-6, 4.58 ERA), who was able to get seven strikeouts and began the game by sending seven straight Clipper batters back to the bench. He lasted six innings, and in that time he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk. The good news for Columbus was they made the hits counts; all four went for extra bases.
Sarbaugh saw Cabrera’s performance as a fine example of what a good, accurate fastball can do.
“He used his fastball effectively and he was aggressive with it,” Sarbaugh said. “He ran it in on some right-handers and was able to spot it on the outer half. We’ve seen him before and he threw really well against us the last time. He’s got a really good arm.”
After getting shut down for four straight frames, the Indians were finally able to add to their run total in the seventh inning. Packer left the game after giving up a one-out base hit, but then Columbus reliever Matt Langwell came in and gave up another two singles that made it 5-2. The RBI went to Indianapolis first baseman Matt Hague on a bloop fly ball to right field.
However, Columbus was able to get that run back and then some in the inning’s bottom half. An RBI double by designated hitter Lars Anderson made it 5-3, and then Cunningham hit into an RBI groundout a few batters later. The Clippers were able to get the tying run to third, but a groundout by second baseman Cord Phelps ended the threat. The score was 5-4 after seven.
Much of the damage in the seventh inning came against Indians reliever Evan Meek, who lasted only two thirds of an inning. However, once he left the Clippers offense hit a wall and was able to come all the way back and tie the game.
The Clippers will take Monday off before beginning a four-game series against the Durham Bulls on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. The two teams split a series in Durham last week.