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Clippers Walk Their Way To Victory Over Mud Hens 7-4

Clippers Walk Their Way To Victory Over Mud Hens 7-4
Ezequiel Carrera (Photo: Lianna Holub)
July 24, 2012
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COLUMBUS—Huntington Park is known around the International League as a field that favors hitters. On Tuesday night against the Toledo Mud Hens, though, the Clippers needed only to walk to get a win.

Columbus (55-49) began its nine-game homestand with a 7-4 victory against Toledo on Tuesday at Huntington Park. The Mud Hens pitching staff combined to walk eight Clippers, including walking in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Columbus was accurate on the mound, walking only three Toledo hitters, but four home runs by the Mud Hens kept the game close.

With the game tied 4-4 in the seventh, Columbus loaded the bases with a Jared Goedert single, Cord Phelps double and Chad Huffman intentional walk. Bringing Matt Pagnozzi to the plate in hopes of forcing a groundout or potential double play, Toledo walked the Columbus catcher, plating Goedert and putting the Clippers in the lead. Columbus tallied two more runs in the inning on singles by Gregorio Petit and Ezequeil Carrera.

Columbus is now six games over .500, the high-water mark of the season for the Clippers. The team has won six-straight contests, eight of its last nine games, and is 10-4 since the All-Star break.

“Our offense has been giving up good at-bats one through nine. The bottom of the order has really been producing for us. Tonight was (the same story),” Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said.

The Clippers opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, but it did not take long for Toledo to respond with runs of its own.

After Jason Donald scored on a hard-hit groundball by Goedert that deflected off Mud Hens’ third baseman Audy Ciriaco, Toledo plated a run in the top of the second inning. Mud Hens’ right fielder Ben Guez homered off Columbus left-hander David Huff into the left-field bleachers. The top of the third frame was a mirror image of the second, with Toledo catcher Bryan Holaday sending a Huff pitch into the bleachers. Huff had breezed through the top of the first, retiring Toledo’s top of the lineup in order.

Columbus had a chance to score more than one run in the first, and came within a few feet of really breaking the game open early. Phelps hit a towering fly ball down the left-field line with the bases loaded, but the ball faded into foul territory as Phelps crept down the first-base line, hoping it would stay fair. Phelps ended that at-bat looking at a called strike three, and Huffman finished the Clippers’ bases-loaded scoring opportunity with a fly out to center field.

Huffman came through in his next at-bat, hitting a double to left field that scored Phelps from first and tied the game, 2-2, in the third. Toledo had a chance to get out of the inning prior to Huffman batting, though. Mud Hens’ second baseman Danny Worth dropped consecutive double-play balls during his exchange from glove to throwing hand. Each time the ball fell to the ground, Toledo could have gotten out of the inning with an on-time throw to first base.

Columbus looked like it was going to open the floodgates in the fifth, but failed to add to its lead after Carrera put the Clippers on top with a two-run homer to right field in the fourth. Casey Crosby walked the first two batters of the fifth frame—Phelps and Huffman—and was promptly taken out of the game. Crosby’s night ended after allowing four runs on seven hits through four innings of work. Columbus catcher then put two runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line, but Petit lined out to left and Phelps was thrown out at the plate, tagging from third base.

“I just thought we did a real good job of being patient with our at-bats,” Sarbaugh said. “I think that went in our favor and helped get (Crosby) out of the game.”

Huff spoiled his chance at a win in the sixth.

The left-hander gave up a home run to Ciriaco in the fifth, and Toledo tied the game in the sixth frame when Huff surrendered his fourth solo shot of the game. Mud Hens’ designated hitter tied the game 4-4 with a drive over the wall in right-center field with one out in the sixth. Huff was almost in line for a loss, but Donald threw out the go-ahead run at the plate and ended the inning after Ciriaco singled to left.

Home runs have been a bit of a problem for Huff of late. Opposing teams have homered off the right-hander nine times over his last three starts, and Huff has given up at least one dinger in five of his last six outings. The four homers given up in six innings of work Tuesday is a season high for Huff.

Sarbaugh said Huff’s home-run rate does not concern him, but he does realize that Huff needs to improve on his tendency to leave pitches up in the zone.

“I just think David needs to be able to make some adjustments and get downhill more with his fastball,” Sarbaugh said.

Columbus took control of the game in the seventh after Pagnozzi’s bases-loaded walk. Petit singled up the middle, bringing home Phelps, and Carrera followed with an RBI-single to right field.

“That was really good, we had some really good at-bats. Petit had a great at-bat, Pagnozzi obviously with the walk, that’s what we need in that situation,” Sarbaugh said.

Right-hander Dan Wheeler, left-hander Scott Barnes, and right-hander Frank Hermann combined to throw three-scoreless innings in relief. Barnes made things dicey in the ninth, putting the first two Mud Hens batters on base, but was replaced with Hermann with one out in the inning. Hermann put the go-ahead run at the plate after walking the tying run with two outs, but got center fielder Justin Henry to groundout to first, ending the game.

Columbus and Toledo will play a double header Wednesday with the first game starting at 5:35 p.m.

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