Columbus Clippers stifled by Indianapolis Indians, 1-0
COLUMBUS, Ohio –– When an opposing pitcher shuts you down all night, you have to tip your cap.
But if you get the chance to beat him by scoring just one late run, you have to take it.
That’s what was presented to the Columbus Clippers (53-47) on Thursday evening against the Indianapolis Indians (54-46), but they failed to seize the moment, and instead fell 1-0 on a run in the ninth inning.
Salazar’s opening inning, much like his season so far, showed glimpses of excitement and frustration. First there was his tremendous velocity, evident right from the opening pitch as hit 98 on the radar gun and struck out the first two batters he faced.
But if securing to get the inning’s final out seemed difficult for Salazar, getting the first punch-out proved even harder for Indians starter Brandon Cumpton. The right-hander began with walks to Jose Ramirez and Tyler Holt, and then allowed All-Star Jesus Aguilar to smack a single into center.
Then, to the amazement of the packed house at Huntington Park, Cumpton managed to get out of the inning unscathed. First, Audy Ciriaco popped out to third. Matt Carson couldn’t do any better, the designated hitter grounding weakly into an inning-ending double play.
Cumpton’s confidence soared after his first inning escape, and it showed. The 25-year-old faced the minimum 18 batters over his next six innings of work, issuing just two walks and not allowing a hit in the process.
Salazar retired the side in the second and third, aided by Carlos Moncrief’s assist on a double play from right field. But the Indians threatened with two outs again in the fourth. Lambo singled to right, and with Tony Sanchez at the plate Salazar’s pitch got away from him and zoomed past Sanchez’s head.
What otherwise would have been a minor slip of the hand was treated with caution by the evening’s umpiring crew. When the two teams played on Sunday a pitch hit the Clippers’ Tyler Holt, and home plate umpire Derek Mollica warned both benches during Thursday’s game to avoid any further difficulties.
Sanchez ended up drawing a walk before Salazar put out the fire by fanning McGuiness on three pitches.
Salazar kept the Indians at bay in the fifth as his team continued to produce little on offense. The 24-year-old’s night was over just short of the 100-pitch mark after he gave up a two-out double to Sanchez in the seventh.
Columbus manager Chris Tremie was pleased with the way Salazar performed.
“He was good. His velocity was up tonight; he commanded the ball really well at times,” Tremie said. “The couple of spurts where he walked two hitters and then got behind in the count some, those things got his pitch count elevated a little bit and it probably cost him an inning. But if you get six and a two-thirds out of a guy with no runs, I’ll take that.”
He was replaced by lefty Josh Outman, and he retired all three batters he faced before Vinnie Pestano relieved him in the eighth. It was the veteran’s first appearance since being optioned to Columbus earlier in the week, and it didn’t begin well. Pestano took just nine pitches to walk both Chase d’Arnaud and Jaff Decker, and was saved only by a terrific play by Ramirez at second to retire Tabata and end the inning.
Despite Pestano requiring 18 pitches to complete just one-third of an inning, Tremie said his difficulties were down to a cold arm.
“He hadn’t thrown in a while; it’s been about eight days since he threw, so that tends to happen sometimes to pitchers when they had some time off,” Tremie said. “But he got out of the inning, it was a lot of pitches but he did a nice job getting a groundball to get out of the inning.”
It looked like the Clippers would steal the game in the eighth. Moncrief led off by getting the Clippers’ first hit since the opening frame, a double to deep left-center that brought the crowd to their feet for the first time in hours. Things looked even better when Ryan Rohlinger laid down a textbook sac bunt to move Moncrief over, but neither Justin Sellers nor Luke Carlin could make anything of it and the opportunity passed.
Tremie acknowledged the way that Cumpton frustrated the Clippers lineup, especially during those tight spots in the first and eighth innings.
“He made some pitches, he pitched well. You’ve got to tip your hat,” Tremie said. “He threw the ball well tonight.”
The Clippers’ slip-up was punished in the very next half-inning, as the Indians took advantage of an eerily similar opportunity.
Tyler Sturdevant had relieved Vinnie Pestano at the start of the eighth, and he began the ninth by allowing a double to McGuiness. One sac bunt later, Dean Anna didn’t pass up the chance like his opponents just had, and he lifted a sac fly into right field to five Indianapolis the game’s winning run.
Josh Wall came in for the save in the ninth and, despite allowing Tyler Holt to reach second with two outs, he still closed the game successfully by striking out Aguilar and Ciriaco.
The loss puts Columbus a game behind Indianapolis in the International League West Division, but they have time to catch up over the next few days. The two teams still have three more matchups against each other, the next one coming Friday night at Huntington Park. Travis Cloyd will take the mound for Columbus with first pitch at 7:15 p.m.