Clippers lose close one to Bats, 4-2
COLUMBUS – On a night when Huntington Park was celebrating Columbus’ bicentennial, the Clippers (49-49) were dealt a heartbreaking loss to the Louisville Bats (37-62) on Wednesday by a final score of 4-2.
Donning light blue uniforms bearing the number “200,” the Clippers were frustrated throughout the night by dominant Bats pitching and a controversial call by the umpires in a critical situation.
There was trouble for the Clippers early, as the first pitch of the game was lined into left for a double by Bats center fielder Denis Phipps. The next batter, shortstop Didi Gregorius, attempted a bunt back to the pitcher’s mound in order to move Phipps over to third. However, Clippers starter Jeanmar Gomez committed a throwing error that allowed Gregorius to reach safely and Phipps to score. Louisville designated hitter Mike Costanzo would tack on another run with an RBI single up the middle, and the Bats left the top of the first up 2-0.
Meanwhile, the Columbus bats struggled early, and they didn’t get very much help from the Louisville defense. A hustle play by Gregorius was able to grab a fly ball out in center for an out, and an apparent sure thing to right field by Clippers catcher Luke Carlin was grabbed by Bats right fielder Felix Perez on a diving play that ended the second inning with two runners on base.
The Clippers’ first hit and run came simultaneously in the third, as second baseman Cord Phelps launched his tenth home run of the year to straightaway center field. This solo shot cut the Bats’ lead to 2-1.
Gomez (2-2, 1.86 ERA) improved considerably after his first inning struggles, and went on to toss seven complete innings. In that time he allowed 10 hits, but only three runs; two of which were earned. Most notably, Gomez threw eight strikeouts on the night.
Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh saw a noticeable shift in Gomez’s pitching after the first.
“He was just more aggressive with his fastball,” Sarbaugh said. “He got some good ground ball outs and he did a nice job.”
Above all, Gomez’s solid start kept his team in a position to at least pull it even, which they finally did in the sixth. A leadoff double down the left field line by center fielder Ezequiel Carrera got the inning started on the right foot, and eventually a wild pitch moved him over to third with nobody out. He was brought in on a fielder’s choice to short by first baseman Vinny Rottino, and after six innings the game was even at 2-2.
Even then, the Clippers were unable to get much of anything going against Louisville starter Sean Gallagher (8-6, 4.69 ERA). He also went seven innings, allowing two runs on just four hits and four walks while also striking out four.
Controversy struck in the seventh inning as the Bats were able to take a 3-2 lead on an RBI double into right field by catcher Corky Miller. However, the Clippers contested that the ball was foul in deep right. That wasn’t the call on the field, and Sarbaugh was eventually ejected for arguing the call.
Sarbaugh said that while he didn’t have the best view of the play, he based his reaction on the reactions of the Clippers players.
“To be honest with you, from the dugout I’m just going off the players,” Sarbaugh said. “All I asked was if (the umpire) could get help on it, and he didn’t want to.”
The Clippers had another opportunity to pull even in the eighth, as a base hit up the middle by designated hitter Russ Canzler seemed like it would bring Phelps from second. Unfortunately, Phelps was called out on a close play at home. Then Miller returned in the top of the ninth to add an insurance run with a solo homer to left center field. That shot made it 4-2, and that’s how the game would end.
Reliever Rafael Perez made a rehab appearance for the Clippers on Wednesday, and looks to return to the Cleveland Indians soon. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning in which he allowed a hit and recorded a strikeout.
The Clippers will wrap up their series against Louisville with a day game on Thursday. First pitch will be at 12:05 p.m.