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Clippers score three in 9th for walk-off win

Clippers score three in 9th for walk-off win
April 9, 2012
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COLUMBUS - Another game, another late-inning rally for the Columbus Clippers.

With two outs and the Clippers trailing, 3-2, to the Indianapolis Indians in the bottom of the ninth inning, shortstop Gregorio Petit came to bat with runners on first and third. Petit drove what he said to be a slider from Indians’ reliever Tim Wood to deep left field, scoring both runners, and giving the Clippers (4-1) a dramatic 4-3 walk-off win in front of 7,507 fans at dime-a-dog night at Huntington Park in Columbus on Monday.

The win was the fourth in a row for Columbus, and the first in a four-game series against the Indians (2-2).

When asked about his heroic at bat, Petit, who was 0-3 coming into his final at bat, had a simple response.

“I was trying not to swing at the bad pitches like I did (in the previous two at bats). I felt good. I just wanted to have a good at bat,” Petit said.

The hit easily plated Clippers’ right fielder Ryan Spilborghs from third, but because Indians’ left fielder Gorkys Hernandez was playing in left-center field, Columbus pinch hitter Trevor Crowe was able to score all the way from first, winning the game.

Petit said he wasn’t sure if the hit would be a game-winning one.

“I knew it was a tie game. I knew with Crowe at first, we had a chance,” he said.

Part of the reason Columbus had a chance to win the game in the ninth was because of the play of its bullpen.

Clippers’ starter, left-hander Chris Seddon, struggled to get in a rhythm all night, and only lasted four innings giving up three runs on five hits while striking out five batters.

Relievers Nick Haggadone, Chris Ray and Frank Herrmann combined for five innings of scoreless work in relief for Columbus.

“I thought our bullpen really threw the ball well, from Hagadone to Ray and then Herrmann, they really kept the game within striking distance,” Clippers’ manager Mike Sarbaugh said.

For the second time in four nights, the game started with a home run on the first pitch of the game by the opposition, as Indians’  center fielder Starling Marte smoked a fastball from Seddon over the left field bleachers. Four hitters later, Indianapolis designated hitter Jeff Clement drove the gap in right-center field for an RBI double, and the Indians held a 2-0 lead after the top half of the first frame.

A costly error by Indianapolis allowed Columbus to get within one run in the bottom of the second inning.

Spilborghs hit a short bouncer up the first base line, and Indianapolis starter Charlie Morton and Indians’ first baseman Miles Durham collided trying to pick up the ball, allowing Spilborghs to reach. Two batters later, Spilborghs scored on a double to the left-center field gap by Clippers’ catcher Matt Pagnozzi.

Indianapolis got one back in the top of the third inning when Indians’  right fielder Brandon Boggs took a Seddon pitch deep to left for a home run.

Then, the bats became cold.

Columbus and Indianapolis combined for two hits and zero runs from the bottom of the third inning through the top of the eighth inning.

Morton continued to stifle Clippers’ batters at the plate, while Hagadone, who replaced Seddon in the top of the fifth inning, and Ray combined for four innings of shutout ball in relief for Columbus.

Hagadone and Ray faced only 13 batters—one more than the minimum 12—during their four innings of work. The lone Indian that got on base—Marte—reached when his bat shattered in the seventh inning, sending 15-16 inches of wood and the ball back at Ray, which prevented the Columbus pitcher from fielding his position.

After Clippers’ second baseman Cord Phelps doubled to deep right in the bottom of the eighth inning with two outs, sending Morton out of the game, Columbus looked to be in business with hot-hitting Matt LaPorta at the plate.

However, Indians’ right-hander reliever Bryan Morris struck out the Clippers’ left fielder, ending hope of a rally.

Following a one-two-three inning by Herrmann in the top of the ninth, Clippers’ first baseman Russ Canzler started the comeback with a single to right in the bottom of the inning.

Spilborghs walked two batters later, and pinch-hitter Andy Laroche did the same, loading the bases for Crowe, who drove in third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall with a fielder's choice.

Petit was next up, and after a long at bat, the Clippers were victorious.

Sarbaugh said having a veteran-laden club makes a difference in these close ball games.

“It definitely helps, having their experience here to help the younger guys, the guys have been great so far,” he said.

Columbus and Indianapolis play again on Tuesday at 6:35 p.m. at Huntington Park in Columbus.

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