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Columbus enters break at .500

Columbus enters break at .500
Clippers catcher Luke Carlin
July 8, 2012
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COLUMBUS – No baseball game is without opportunities. If a team expects to win, it’s crucial to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible.

That’s exactly what the Columbus Clippers (45-45) did on Sunday afternoon as they defeated the Indianapolis Indians (56-34) 11-5 to win the weekend series and go into the All-Star break with a .500 record.

Columbus struck early for a 1-0 lead, but they didn’t exactly go about it the traditional way. Clippers center fielder Ezequiel Carrera walked to lead off the game, and he quickly stole his 18th base of the year to move into scoring position. He later came around to score on a fielding error by third baseman Brian Friday and the Clippers were suddenly ahead without recording a hit.

Base stealing was one of the big stories of the afternoon for Columbus, as they came out running and over the course of the game, various Clippers stole five bases successfully. Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh said after the game that this wasn’t necessarily the plan going in, but they kept going at it once it proved effective.

“It just kind of developed that way,” Sarbaugh said. “After we stole a few we just wanted to stay aggressive and it ultimately worked out.”

Columbus plated another run in the second inning after a sacrifice fly by Carrera with the bases loaded and after two innings, the Clippers held a 2-0 lead.

Clippers starter David Huff (4-4, 4.58) only really encountered trouble in the fourth when the Indians were able to tie the game at two thanks to designated hitter Jeff Clement’s 13th home run of the year and a sacrifice fly by catcher Jose Morales. Overall, Huff put together a strong start, allowing three runs on eight hits in seven innings of work.

After giving up the tying runs in the fourth, the Clippers stormed ahead and once again took the lead with a huge fifth inning. First, third baseman Russ Canzler made it 3-2 with an RBI single into left. An error by Indians second baseman Anderson Hernandez loaded the bases with nobody out, and two batters later, catcher Luke Carlin brought everyone home with a grand slam to right field that blew the game open and gave the Clippers a 7-2 lead.

This was obviously the key hit of the game, and Sarbaugh was glad to see his team get the big inning after losing the lead.

“The big one was Luke (Carlin),” Sarbaugh said. “You’re just looking or hoping to get one more and with one swing of the bat, we got four.”

Indianapolis starting pitcher Rick VandenHurk (8-1, 3.47 ERA) was inconsistent with his command but was able to get out of a few jams and keep his team in the game until the fifth inning. He wasn’t helped at all by his defense, as the Indians made two critical errors that wound up resulting in more Clipper runs. He left after giving up seven runs and five hits in five innings, but only five of those runs were earned. This was VandenHurk’s first loss of the season.

Following that inning, Indianapolis could not find a way to stay in the game. Despite getting a run across in the top of the sixth to make it 7-3, the Clippers would answer right back in the inning’s bottom half with three runs to make it 10-3. These runs came courtesy of a Canzler RBI-double and a two-run double by designated hitter Chad Huffman. Another run was tacked on in the seventh with a ground-out RBI by first baseman Vinny Rottino.

The season will pause temporarily for the next three days while the Triple-A All-Star festivities take place in Buffalo, NY. Sarbaugh, Canzler, first baseman Matt LaPorta and second baseman Cord Phelps will all be involved in the All-Star Game on Wednesday.

The Clippers will resume play on Thursday at 6:05 p.m. up in Indianapolis as they begin a series against these same Indians.

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