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Clippers Notebook: 2014 Season in Review

Clippers Notebook: 2014 Season in Review
September 9, 2014
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After a while, seasons seem to blend together.  At the Triple-A level, players seem to come and go quickly.  With that in mind, here are some of things that will be remembered from the 2014 Columbus Clippers season.

April

It was a tough beginning for the Clippers dropping all four games in the season opening series against Indianapolis.  There were four games that were rained out in the first two weeks of the season, which made it tough to get out of the gates, opening the season 4-9. 

What was the most memorable thing in April?  Unfortunately, it was J.D. Martinez’s home run barrage in the double-header on April 19.  He hit three home runs (in a seven inning game) in the early game and Toledo cruised to an 8-1 win at Huntington Park. He added another one in his first at-bat in the second game of the Mud Hens 7-6 win.  The good news for the Clippers was that Detroit selected his contract on April 21.  But that ended up being bad news for Cleveland.

The Clippers took three out of four from Gwinnett at Huntington Park and salvaged an 11-13 record to end the month.

Moment of the month

April 23 – Clippers 5, Braves 4 (11)

It’s hard not to point to the first walk-off of the season.  The Clippers tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth on a home run by Nyjer Morgan

It stayed that way until Roberto Perez led off the 11th with a single and then stole second.  The G-Braves chose to intentionally walk Jose Ramirez, who drove in a run in the seventh in a similar situation.  Audy Ciriaco struck out trying to sacrifice bunt the runners over. 

That brought Ryan Rohlinger to the plate.  He grounded one through the hole between short and third and Tremie sent Perez around third.  The throw was off-line and the Clippers won in 11.

Hitting performance of the month

April 8 – Clippers 6, Bats 5

INF Jesus Aguilar 2-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R

Coming off a series sweep to open the season against Indianapolis, the Clippers were looking for their first win in 2014.  Jesus Aguilar provided the pop they needed to get them in the win column.

David Cooper led off the fourth inning with a single to center and Jesus Aguilar hit his first home run of the game to left to give the Clipper a 2-0 lead. In the seventh inning, with two on, one in and two out in a 3-1 game, Aguilar crushed one off the left side of the scoreboard in right-center to make it a 6-1 game.  The Clippers would hold on to win 6-5.

Pitching performance of the month

April 11 – Clippers 4, Bats 2

RHP Tyler Cloyd – W, 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HR

It took the Clippers a couple of days, but they got their second win of the season against Louisville as well, but this came at Louisville Slugger Field.

Cloyd retired the first nine batters he faced, three on strikeouts.  Hernan Iribarren led off the fourth with a single, but was quickly erased on a double play.  Felix Perez reached on an error with two outs and scored on a double byChris Nelson, which was the only damage allowed by Cloyd.

He retired the next seven batters before Perez and Nelson started the seventh with back-to-back singles.  Mike Constanzo lined out and Mike Wilson grounded into an inning-ending double play.  Cloyd retired the side in order in the eighth and finished his night throwing just 86 pitches (58 for strikes).

May

May was a month of ups and downs.  The Clippers also ran off a six game winning streak (May 5-10) and took seven of eight from Rochester and Syracuse on the home stand pushing their record to 20-16.

But they followed that effort with a difficult stretch where they lost ten of 12 games.  They got swept in Rochester, lost two of four at Syracuse and got swept in their return home by Durham.

The Clippers made 58 roster moves in May.  The biggest impact to the roster were the promotions of starting pitchers Trevor BauerJosh Tomlin and T.J. House.  They also lost infielders Jose Ramirez, Jesus Aguilar andJustin Sellers at various points during the month making it difficult for the team to find its footing. 

But all was not lost on the roster because the Clippers got infielder Giovanny Urshela, starting pitcher Kyle Daviesand outfielder Tyler Holt from Akron and all three would make a major positive impact on the team’s performance over the course of the rest of the season.

They finished the month with a 15-16 record and 26-29 overall, seven games out of first.

Moment of the month

May 12 – Clippers 5, Syracuse 4

Before losing the lead and ultimately Game Two against Durham, Columbus was undefeated in games in which they led going into the ninth inning.  In fact, there was only one game in which they blew a ninth inning lead all season. 

That happened in the finale of the series against Syracuse.  They led 4-3 in the ninth inning when Jose Lozadascored the tying run on a fielding error.

But the Clippers put together a two out rally that started with a single to right by Luke Carlin.  After a walk to Justin Sellers, Audy Ciriaco launched a long fly ball to left-center that landed on the warning track just in front of the wall and gave the Clippers a 5-4 win.

Hitting performance of the month

May 31 – Clippers 19, Bats 3

The Clippers struggled in double headers early in the season, dropping the first four games and going 1-5 overall before playing Louisville twice on May 31.  It was a day-night double header, which meant that both games would be traditional nine-inning games. 

Everything came together in the first game.  The offense put together scoring innings in each of the first four off of Louisville starter Matt Maloney.  Trailing 1-0 in the Clippers first, Elliot Johnson hit a two-run double to left to give them the lead.  Audy Ciriaco homered in the second to extend it to 3-0.

Leading 3-2 in the third, the Clippers put together a five-run rally where all five runs were driven by five different players.  They also put together a nine-run seventh inning that added insult to injury.  All nine batters in the lineup collected at least one hit, scored at least one run and drove in at least one run.

Elliot Johnson, Ryan Rohlinger, Audy Ciriaco and Chris Wallace drove in three runs apiece. Tyler Cloyd pitched a complete game, allowing three runs on three solo home runs.

Pitching performance of the month

May 1 – Clippers 3, Bulls 0

RHP Josh Tomlin – W, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K, 0 HR

Tomlin faced the minimum on one hit through the first four innings.  Wilson Betemit and Hak-Ju Lee led off the fifth and sixth with doubles, but Tomlin retired the next three after them to avoid any damage.  He retired the final 11 batters he faced and threw only 89 pitches (70 strikes) in nine innings. 

June

The month began with a three-city ten game road trip through Louisville, Gwinnett and Charlotte.  They lost both in Louisville but took three out four in Gwinnett and Charlotte and then took the first six on the ensuing home stand against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Buffalo.  Later in the month they took three out of four at Lehigh Valley.  When Columbus started this string, they were eight games out of the division and by the end of it, they closed the gap to two games. 

The Clippers finished the month with their best record in any month, taking 19 of 29 games and closed the gap to just two games, moving from last to second in the division.

Hitting performance of the month

June 21-23 – Clippers at Iron Pigs

Audy Ciriaco – 3 G, 8-for-12, 7 R, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .667 BA, .692 OBP, 1.583 SLG.

Audy Ciriaco put on a hitting display in the Lehigh Valley series.  After a day off in the first game, he got hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance in the third inning of the June 21 game.  He scored on an error later in the inning.  With two outs and six runs in, he came to the plate for the second time in the inning and lined a single to left to score Roberto Perez and complete a seven-run third for the Clippers.

Later in the game, he launched his sixth homer of the year over the center field wall, which was a two run shot and finished the game 2-for-4 with a homer, three runs batted in and two runs scored in the Clippers 14-2 win.

He followed that performance with a 3-for-4 performance the next night, June 22.  He had a homer, two runs batted in and three runs scored.

He hit a two-run homer in the second, making it back-to-back at-bats with a homer. 

He led off the seventh with a single and scored the go-ahead run on Elliot Johnson’s triple in a 6-4 win.  He also scored the insurance run in the in the ninth when he doubled with one out and scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.

In the finale, he went 3-for-4 again with another homer, four runs batted in and two runs scored.

With two outs and a runner on, Ciriaco came to the plate in the fourth inning of a tie game and smacked a two run shot onto the lawn over the left field wall to give the Clippers the lead.

But going into the eighth, the Clippers trailed 4-2.  After Carlos Moncrief’s double tied the game, Audy doubled to left to score two runs and give the Clippers a 7-4 win.

Pitching performance of the month

June 29 – Clippers 4, Mud Hens 0

RHP Travis Banwart 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 HR

The Clippers were scuffling a little bit heading in the final two road games of the month.  Travis Banwart had been a steady pitcher in their rotation to that point, but this would be his finale as a Columbus Clipper.  He turned in seven shutout innings and while he didn’t set them down in order every inning, the Mud Hens were never able to put a rally together.

The only time he allowed back-to-back base runners to reach was the fourth inning when Tyler Collins worked a walk and Mike Hessman singled to center.  He coaxed a ground ball double play off the bat of Brian McCann to squelch that rally.

It was the only time a base runner reached second all game and the Clippers took it 4-0.

July

The Clippers were within two games of Indianapolis going into the month, but they dropped five in a row to the Paw Sox and Indy and fell behind by four with four to play in Indy before the break. 

They won all four, including sweeping the second doubleheader in three nights and went to the break tied for first.

Coming back from the break they lost three of four in Columbus to Indy, dropping them to two games back.  But Indy really struggled after that and the Clippers took three of four from Louisville, including the July 24 game that put them in sole possession of first place.  Spoiler alert - they would not relinquish that position for the rest of the season.

They finished July with a 14-15 record.  But everybody else in the division really struggled and by the end of the month, the Clippers held a 1.5 game lead.

Pitching performance of the month

July 30 – Clippers 13, Bats 0

The Clippers grabbed a 2-0 lead on Jesus Aguilar’s double in the fourth and then extended that lead to four on a two-run homer by Giovanny Urshela.

Meanwhile, Tyler Cloyd was quietly setting down the batting order.  Three up, three down for eight innings.  As those in attendance began to realize what was happening the noise in Huntington Park grew louder and louder. 

They erupted when Cloyd struck out Ruben Gotay and Felix Perez to get through the seventh and it was almost pandemonium when Giovanny robbed a hit on a dive down the third base line in the eighth from Thomas Neal

There was a momentary sigh when the fifth pitch of the ninth inning grazed the arm of Donnie Murphy, ending the perfect game.  But the crowd erupted again when Tucker Barnhart grounded into a double play. 

They exploded when Hernan Iribarren lined one softly into the glove of Audy Ciriaco to seal the first no-hitter in Huntington Park. 

Hitting performance of the month

July 30 – Clippers 13, Bats 0

Eh, this is kind of a cop out, but because it was such a special night, so I’ll go with it.  No-hitter or not, Tyler Cloyd was not losing this ballgame.  The Clippers offense put up nine runs in the seventh and eighth innings to ensure that – at the very least – Tyler Cloyd was getting a win. 

Jesus Aguilar drove in four runs on three hits, including a double and a homer; Audy Ciriaco drove in three runs on a pair of hits; and Giovanny Urshela and Luke Carlin also homered in a 13-run outburst.

Moment of the month (other than the no-hitter)

July 4 – Clippers 6, Mud Hens 5

Giovanny Urhsela hits a three-run home run to left in the third inning.  Or so it appeared.  He didn’t touch home plate and was called out on appeal, making it the longest triple in his career. 

The next night, when Audy Ciriaco hit a ground-rule double, Jesus Aguilar pointed at home plate to remind the following Urshela that he’s supposed to touch it for the run to count. 

August

The Clippers lost the first game of the month to Louisville, but then ran off 11 of 14, including a five game win streak from August 12-16 against Lehigh Valley and Toledo.  They clinched the division on August 26 in Toledo and extended their lead to eight games the following night before finishing the season six games ahead of second place. 

The Clippers went 20-11 during the last month plus one game.

Moment of the month

August 26 – Clippers 3, Mud Hens 1

The Clippers were tied with Toledo going into the seventh. Matt Carson singled in between a pair of walks to Carlos Moncrief and Elliot Johnson to lead off the inning and Luke Carlin drew the third walk of the inning to score Moncrief and give the Clippers the lead.  Ryan Rohlinger added a sacrifice fly later in the inning to give them the final margin.

Mike Hessman popped out to Lindor in foul territory and the celebration began.  The Clippers were West Division Champions for the 14th time in team history and the first since their last playoff appearance in 2011.

Hitting performance of the month

August 25 – Clippers 11, Indianapolis 9 (10)

The final death rattle by Indy was a tough one.  The Clippers led 6-1 after five, but Indy rallied back to take the lead in the eighth.

With two outs in the ninth and all seemed lost, Matt Carson, who had five hits for the game, hit an opposite field laser shot over the right-center wall to tie the game.

Indy retook the lead in the top of tenth on Robert Andino’s two-run double and things looked desperate again for the home team.

With one out, Dusty Brown tied it up with a home run to left.  Francisco Lindor followed with a double and Ryan Raburn moved him to third with a single.  That set up Jesus Aguilar’s three-run walk-off shot to left-center to cut the magic number to one.

Pitching performance of the month

August 26 – Clippers 3, Mud Hens 1

In a game that the Clippers needed to clinch the division, Zach McAllister threw seven innings and allowed one run on four hits. 

He retired the first 11 he faced until a two out walk in the fourth.  He didn’t give up his first hit until Wade Gaynorsingled with one out in the fifth.  Gaynor would score Toledo’s only run later in the inning. 

McAllister gave up a pair of singles in the sixth with one out, but got a line out double play to end the inning and then set the side down in order in the seventh. 

Shawn Armstrong and Bryan Price both did the same in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the win.

The week that was

The Columbus Clippers had their season end by dropping three of four to the Durham Bulls in the Governor’s Cup playoffs.

In Game One on the Clippers scored early and often off of Durham pitching.  David Murphy, on rehab assignment from Cleveland, hit a two-run homer in the first to get things started.  Matt Carson added a second inning solo homer.  Columbus put the game out of reach by scoring five runs in the sixth and seventh innings.  Luke Carlin drove in a pair in the sixth with a double to right and James Ramsey hit a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Clippers a 9-4 victory.

Giovanny Urshela drove in a pair of runs on three hits and Audy Ciriaco added a solo home run to give the Clippers a 3-1 lead.  Tyler Cloyd returned from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for the last week of the regular season to pitch seven innings and allow two runs.  But the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead in the late innings.  Mike Fontenotsingled just passed a diving Justin Sellers to score the tying run in the ninth and Tim Beckham hit a sacrifice fly in the tenth to score Cole Figueroa in the tenth, giving Durham a 4-3 win in Game Two.  Figueroa led off the inning with a triple off the wall in right-center.  It was the first time the Clippers lost a game in which they led going into the ninth inning.  They would never have another lead in the series.

The venue changed to Durham Bulls Athletic Park for Game Three and this time it was the Bulls that grabbed the early lead.  Jeremy Moore singled in the first run and Tim Beckham followed with an RBI double to give Durham a 2-0 lead after one.  Nick Franklin homered to lead off the second and it turned out to be just enough for Durham to take a 2-1 series lead.  Elliot Johnson and Ryan Rohlinger each hit solo home runs for the Clippers in a 3-2 loss.

The Clippers struggled to score off of Durham starter Nate Karns in Game Four.  He struck out 12 batters over seven innings and left with a 2-1 lead.  But the Clippers bats rallied off of Merrill Kelly in the eighth to tie the game.  It was short-lived though as Jeremy Moore hit a double to right to score Cole Figueroa in a 4-2 win for Durham.

Governor’s Cup

Durham plays at Pawtucket for the first two games of the Governor’s Cup Championship Series beginning on Tuesday before the series moves back to Durham on Thursday.

Michael Rich is a senior majoring in Communications at The Ohio State University.

User Comments

Roger
September 9, 2014 - 9:45 AM EDT
as 2014 has developed it looks like the starting pitching came into prominance way sooner than it was thought it would. As for a possible excess (I know there is no such tthing as excess pitching) it does appear we will have to move some pitching in the off season. Zac Mac is out of options after this year up and down 71 however i do think 2014 was an aberition and he is in fact an above avg middle of rotation starter. However when out of options it may behoove us to try to get the maximum in exchange for him cause being out 0f options means we cannot horde him, as for tomlim i woulldnt offer him arbitration but ideally would love to paqckage both of them into a servicable rf if we cant sign mike cuddyer who if healthy would be number one option as free agent.

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