Clippers don't get any breaks, lose 3-1
COLUMBUS – In well-pitched games, it’s often about which team gets the breaks. On Wednesday night, the Columbus Clippers just couldn’t buy one.
The Clippers (39-41) fell to the Norfolk Tides (40-41) by a final score of 3-1 Wednesday. While both pitching staffs had stellar performances, the game was also influenced by an error, a ball boy, and a very close call by the umpires.
Columbus grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out RBI double down the left field line by Clippers second baseman Cord Phelps. Another run could have possibly scored, but the play was dead after the left field ball boy picked the ball off the ground, thinking it was foul. That put runners on second and third, but left fielder Tim Fedroff struck out in three pitches to end the threat.
The Tides tied it up in the second thanks to a major Clipper mistake. When Norfolk left fielder L.J. Hoes singled into right field, he was able to advance to third on a fielding error by Clippers right fielder Ezequiel Carrera. He then came in on a sacrifice fly by Norfolk first baseman Joe Mahoney to tie it at one.
The first earned run for Columbus starter Chris Seddon (7-5, 3.61 ERA) came in the fourth inning, and it came courtesy of a solo shot to left by Norfolk third baseman Brandon Waring. It was just Waring’s third home run of the year, but it was a huge one that put his team up 2-1 over the Clippers.
It was a pitcher’s duel from then on, and neither team could get much of anything going on the offensive side of the ball. Seddon went 7.2 innings and allowed the two runs (one earned) on just four hits and two walks, striking out six in the process. Despite these great numbers, he would get the loss.
Tides starter Chris Tillman (8-8, 3.63 ERA) was just as sharp. He went 5.2 innings, and allowed just one run on five hits while striking out seven. Once the game was 2-1, both pitchers were completely in the zone. Starting in the fourth inning, neither offense was able to even get a runner aboard for a combined 16 consecutive at-bats.
While luck was not on Columbus’ side on Wednesday, Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh felt the loss ultimately came down to Tillman’s pitching.
“You’ve got to give Tillman credit,” Sarbaugh said after the game. “I thought he was a big league pitcher out there tonight. He had it going tonight and he was better than us.”
If the Clippers were to come back, they would need to either find a way to beat Tillman or get him out of the game. They decided to take the latter path, as in his 5.2 innings of work Tillman had to throw 96 pitches and he left after giving up a single to Clippers first baseman Russ Canzler. This gave Columbus plenty of time to come back against the Norfolk bullpen.
Unfortunately, this didn’t make it any easier. Norfolk reliever Oscar Villarreal dominated the Clippers in 1.2 innings of work, but that wasn’t without its controversy. An apparent hit down the third base line was ruled foul by umpire Kelvin Bultron, and Sarbaugh was ejected after arguing the call.
“I thought the call in the seventh (inning) was big,” Sarbaugh said. “I thought it was a chance to get a man on second base and a chance to tie the ball game. It just didn’t work out.”
As the Columbus offense continued to struggle, the Tides tacked on one more run in the ninth to make it 3-1. With two outs, Norfolk were able to get three consecutive singles off of Clippers reliever Frank Herrmann that brought eventually brought a man home. That proved to be all the run support they needed.
Another big story on Wednesday was the return of designated hitter Travis Hafner to baseball action, who is on the path back to the Cleveland Indians after being placed on the disabled list back on May 30. In his rehab appearance for the Clippers, he went 1-for-3 with a ground ball single up the middle and a strikeout.
The Clippers will play game three of their four-game series against Norfolk on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m.