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Clippers fall apart late, lose 9-7

Clippers fall apart late, lose 9-7
August 15, 2012
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COLUMBUS – For the first seven innings on Wednesday night, it looked like a sure blowout victory for the Columbus Clippers (64-61). Their starting pitcher was dominating, and their offense was putting on a performance that Huntington Park hadn’t seen in a couple weeks.

Then in one inning, the floor fell out from underneath their feet.

The Clippers fell to the Durham Bulls (59-67) by a final score of 9-7 on the back on a seven-run eighth inning that turned a five-run lead into a two-run deficit with just a few swings of the bat.

The Clippers were able to get a strong inning out of the box, which helped them break their recent offensive funk. The rally began as right fielder Vinny Rottino drew a one-out walk, and then he came all the way around to score on an RBI double by second baseman Cord Phelps. The next batter was designated hitter Russ Canzler, and he was able to bring Phelps home with an RBI single to center. Much like the night before, Columbus was able to take a first-inning lead. Only this time the lead was two.

The struggles for Durham starting pitcher Cesar Ramos (4-3, 3.53 ERA) continued in the third inning, as he kept giving Clippers batters pitches to hit. Phelps hit his second RBI double of the game – this time to straightaway center field – to make it 3-0, and then two batters later first baseman Jared Goedert teed off on Ramos and went the other way for a two-run home run. Goedert’s 11th homer of the season bounced off the scoreboard and gave his team a 5-0 lead.

The Durham offense, meanwhile, struggled mightily against Clippers starter David Huff (5-6, 5.34 ERA) until the fourth inning. It was then that Bulls left fielder Chris Gimenez launched a two-run shot of his own off the scoreboard to put his team on the board. However, Phelps was able to snatch the momentum back in the fifth with a blast of a solo home run to left that cleared the bleachers and re-ignited the Huntington Park crowd. Phelps had a huge night at the plate, going 4-for-4 with a home run, two doubles and a single with four RBI. He added to the run total once more in the seventh inning with an RBI bloop single to center field that made it 7-2.

While the end result ultimately wasn’t what Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh would have liked, he saw Wednesday as a big improvement on the offensive side.

“I thought we came out with a good energy,”  Sarbaugh said after the game. “Cord swung the bat really well. We were able to get a good lead.”

Ramos left the game after six innings; in that time allowing six runs on seven hits and a walk. He was able to strike out five, but too often he left pitches over the plate and the Clippers took advantage.

On the other hand, the one home run wound up being one of the few blemishes of the night for Huff. He went seven strong innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and two walks

Once Huff left the game, everything went wrong for Columbus. Reliever Scott Barnes had a catastrophic eighth inning in which he allowed four runs to narrow the deficit to 7-6, the big moment being a three-run blast to left by Gimenez. He ultimately allowed five runs on two hits and three walks while only recording a single out.

His replacement Dan Wheeler was unable to right the ship. He allowed a two-run homer off the scoreboard to the first batter he faced – second baseman Will Rhymes – that gave Durham the lead. The bleeding continued later with an RBI single by center fielder Rich Thompson, and suddenly the Bulls had a 9-7 lead.

It was a deflating inning for the Clippers and Sarbaugh, and it’s not the kind of collapse this team is used to seeing.

“You go into the eighth with a five run lead and you’re feeling pretty good,” Sarbaugh said. “You know the game’s not over by far but you feel good about it. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one to lose.”

This put the Columbus offense in the unenviable position of having to once more put their foot on the gas, and they were unable to rise to the challenge. They were only able to get one man on base in the final two innings, and that was a walk to Goedert.

The Clippers will play the third game in their four-game series against Durham on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m.

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