Clippers stay alive in playoff chase with 4-2 win
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Columbus Clippers aren't conceding anything when it comes to the playoffs.
The Clippers remained alive in the IL wild-card race with a 4-2 victory Wednesday over the Bats at Louisville Slugger Field, using a pair of unlikely sources to spur the offense and a pitcher-by-committee approach to winning effect.
Columbus entered 4.5 games back of Pawtucket and 1.5 back of Lehigh Valley in the wild-card standings. The Clippers won for the third time in four games and moved to 5-5 against the Bats at Louisville Slugger Field.
The bottom of the lineup provided most of the Clippers' offense. Matt Pagnozzi and Aaron Cunningham, the team's Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, were hitting .215 and .135, respectively, before registering three hits apiece in combing for six of Columbus' 10 hits.
Bats' starter Pedro Villarreal retired the first seven Columbus hitters before Pagnozzi doubled in the third and Cunningham followed by launching his first homer with the Clippers. In 72 games this season with the parent Cleveland Indians, Cunningham collected only one homer.
Cunningham had been homerless with Columbus through 16 games before connecting against Villarreal for a two-run shot to left center. He then doubled in the seventh, leaving him a triple shy of the cycle and giving him two extra-base hits, matching his previous total with the Clippers. The Columbus centerfielder finished 3-for-3 and also made a nice running catch to rob Corky Miller of a double.
The Bats trimmed their deficit to 2-1 in the fifth against Clippers reliever Matt Langwell as Denis Phipps drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on Didi Gregorius' opposite-field single. But Columbus got the run back in the seventh when Tim Fedroff followed Cunningham's two-out double with a triple off Bats reliever Travis Webb.
Phipps and Gregorius were at it again in the bottom half of the seventh, this time against the 7-foot-1 Loek Van Mil. With two outs, Phipps roped a double to left and Gregorius plated him with another opposite-field single to pull the Bats within 3-2.
That's as close as Louisville would get. The Bats went down in order in the eighth and stranded a runner at second in the ninth. Meanwhile, Columbus had restored its two-run cushion by the ninth. In the last inning, Bats infielders couldn't handle a pair of hard-hit balls that went for singles, with Gregorio Petit's scoring Pagnozzi.
Villarreal's 20th start of the season for Louisville was an outstanding one. His only blemish was the Cunningham homer. The 24-year-old right-hander wiggled out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fifth and departed after a perfect sixth with his 11th quality start and 16th appearance that resulted in his surrendering three earned runs or less. He still suffered the loss, falling to 3-12, after allowing two earned runs on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts in six innings.
Columbus' Cole Cook pitched well in his first start of the season for the Clippers. In 41 games this year with four different Indians affiliates, the 24-year-old right-hander had made just one other start. That was forgettable - five earned runs in 2.1 innings with Single-A Carolina on June 23 - but this time he was terrific, allowing no runs on three hits in four innings.
Phipps and Gregorius had two hits apiece for Louisville. Devin Mesoraco went 1-for-4 in his third game since being optioned by Cincinnati.
Fedroff went 2-for-5 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games. Pagnozzi finished 3-for-4 with two runs. Langwell (3-0) was credited with the win and Dan Wheeler, the team's fifth pitcher, earned his fourth save.
This was the second game of a five-game split series. The Bats and Clippers will now play three games in Columbus. The Bats' Chad Reineke (5-10, 4.69 ERA) and the Clippers' David Huff (6-6, 5.24) are the probable starting pitchers for Thursday's 7:05 p.m. game.