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Clippers pitching struggles in 8-5 loss

Clippers pitching struggles in 8-5 loss
July 30, 2012
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COLUMBUS—The International League’s leader in runs per game played like it Sunday night, but the Clippers’ pitching staff faltered, and Columbus lost for the first time since Wednesday.

The Clippers were riding a five-game winning streak heading into their Sunday contest against the Rochester Red Wings, and looked the part of a six-in-a-row club through three innings. Left-hander David Huff then gave up five runs over the next two frames, and Columbus, which leads the IL with a .276 team batting average, scoring five-plus runs per game, started to struggle at the plate. Columbus heated up in the later innings, scoring three runs over the final three frames, but fell short of a come back, losing to Rochester, 8-5, in front of 10,100 fans at Huntington Park.

Columbus, which had scored in the first inning in two-straight games heading into Sunday night’s contest, produced at the plate in the first frame for the third-consecutive time.

Ezequiel Carrera—hitting close to .500 over his last 10 games—doubled down the left-field line to open the bottom of the first. The Clippers center fielder, who with his first-inning single extended his hitting streak to 19 games—a career best and longest active streak in the International League—scored later in the inning when left fielder Jason Donald laced a single up the middle.

The Clippers tallied another run in the second, as Cord Phelps and catcher Matt Pagnozzi each doubled in the frame, with Pagnozzi’s extra-base knock into the left-field corner plating the Columbus second baseman.

Columbus’ bats preceded to cool over the next five innings, as the Clippers went scoreless from the third inning until the seventh frame off Shairon Martis. The Rochester right-hander allowed four runs in 6.1 innings of work. Two of the runs earned by Martis came after the right hander was removed in the seventh and replaced with right-hander Deolis Guerra.

Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said Martis began to be effective because he changed his approach.

“After the first couple innings he was working off of his off-speed pitches. He was slow-slow and then would sneak a fastball mainly with his second pitch,” Sarbaugh said.

While the Clippers began to struggle at the plate, so did David Huff on the mound.

The Columbus left-hander breezed through the first three frames, facing the minimum nine batters and surrendering only base hit, but fell apart starting in the fourth. Huff lasted only five innings, allowing five runs—four earned—on eight hits.

For Huff, it was the fourth-straight start in which he gave up four or more runs. Sarbaugh said he needs to be more consistent.

“Just be consistent with his fastball command. I thought he had good life on his fastball tonight. Stick off (the fastball) and then work off that,” Sarbaugh said.

Rochester got things going in the fourth as four of its first-five hitters reached base on singles. Second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka scored the Red Wings first run when first baseman Chris Parmelee singled to left field. Huff had a chance to help himself two batters later, as the left-hander got his glove on a hard-hit line-drive by third baseman Ray Chang, but the ball deflected off Huff’s mitt and into center field. Red Wings’ center fielder Matt Carson scored on the play, tying the game, 2-2.

The Red Wings took the lead in their next at-bat. Catcher Rene Rivera hit a towering drive into right-center field with left fielder Brian Dinkelman on base. The ball hit of the top of the wall, originally ruled to be in play, but the umpires convened and ruled the hit to be a home run. Huff took a stab at another line drive with one out later in the frame, and this time made the play, but he tried to double Nishioka off third base and made an errant throw, allowing the Red Wings’ second baseman to score. 

Bryan Price replaced Huff after the fifth and didn’t fare much better. The Columbus right-hander gave up solo shots in the sixth and seventh inning, and allowed another run to score when Phelps and Petit failed to scoop up a soft-hit ground ball up the middle with the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You never want to give people runs. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt you but sometimes it does, and you’re always going to put yourself in a tough spot,” Sarbaugh said.

Columbus regained its hot-hitting ways in the seventh, as right fielder Vinny Rottino hit a two-run double into the right-field corner and designated hitter Tim Fedroff homered to right in the eighth.

The scoring stopped there, though, and Columbus lost for the first time since a 5-3 defeat on July 25.

Columbus and Rochester will play game three of the series Monday at 7:05 p.m.

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