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Clippers fall short to the Knights, 4-2

Clippers fall short to the Knights, 4-2
June 11, 2012
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COLUMBUS—A rainy afternoon in Columbus turned into a sunny and warm evening at Huntington Park, but the Clippers bats remained cool for a majority of their game against the Charlotte Knights.

Columbus (30-34) failed to extend its winning streak to four, falling to the Knights, 4-2, in game three of a four-game set between the clubs.

Knights’ left-hander Charlie Leesman had his way with Columbus hitters, shutting out the home team until the bottom of the eighth inning. Leesman combined his mid-90s fastball with timely off-speed pitches to keep the Clippers off balance at the plate. He left the game after giving up a two-run homer to third baseman Andy LaRoche in the bottom of the eighth inning following a four hit, five-strikeout performance.

“He had good life on his fastball and it would run away from righties. But he also had the cutter and a nice slider. He threw the ball well. That’s why he is one of the league leaders,” said Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh.

Chris Schwinden, making his first start in the Cleveland organization since being claimed off waivers on June 6, did not have the opening outing he had probably envisioned. Dealing with a high pitch count, Schwinden only lasted 4.1 innings on 96 pitches, giving up three earned runs on four hits.

Sarbaugh attributed Scwinden’s poor start to the pitcher trying to be too perfect.

“He looked like he was trying to be a little too fine at times. Trying to maybe hit more of the corners and (he) got himself in some deep counts,” Sarbaugh said.

While Schwinden’s inability to throw strikes caused him to leave the game early, it also led to a Charlotte run in the top of the second inning.

Having already scored on a Hector Gimenez solo homer that hit the top of the porch in right field, the Knights plated a run later in the inning on a wild pitch. On third base with two outs, Charlotte designated hitter Josh Phegley crossed the plate after a fastball from Schwinden was too high for Clippers’ catcher Matt Pagnozzi to handle.

Replacing Schwinden on the mound, the Columbus bullpen got out of a jam with little damage in the sixth. After Charlotte loaded the bases with three-consecutive singles off Clippers’ right-hander Hector Ambriz, Columbus escaped with just one run given up. Left-hander Eric Berger got Knights’ power-hitter Dan Johnson to line out to center field with two outs and runners on first-and-second base.

Johnson had already made his mark on the game in the previous inning, though.

With Columbus displaying a major shift on the right side with the left-handed hitting Johnson at the plate, the Knights third baseman put the ball where no Clipper could get to: Over the wall. Johnson crushed a one out, solo home run—his 15th homer of the season—that would have left the ballpark completely if not for the net that stretches across the top of the right-field pavilion.

Sarbaugh praised left-hander Eric Berger after the game, who was the pitcher who got Johnson out to end the Knights’ scoring threat in the sixth.

“He did a very good job. Especially coming into face a pretty good hitter in Dan Johnson. He gave us three and a third (innings). He was solid,” Sarbaugh said.

One Clipper who didn’t have a solid night was Jack Hannahan. Making his first rehab start after coming of the DL, Hannahan went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts batting in the three-hole as the designated hitter. Sarbaugh said after the game that Hannahan would not be with Columbus tomorrow.

Columbus and Charlotte will conclude their four-game series on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. The Clippers are then off on Wednesday before embarking on an eight-game road trip.

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