Fifth inning hit parade puts Clippers over the top
COLUMBUS - The fourth and final game of the series between the Indianapolis Indians and Columbus Clippers had an 11:35am first pitch, but Columbus' bats were awake and ready.
The Clippers bounced back from their first loss since Opening Day on Wednesday night with a 5-4 win on Thursday, taking three games of the four-game set.
Trailing 4-2 in the fifth, it was a barrage of singles against Indianapolis starter Jeff Locke that ultimately inflicted the most damage. Six, to be exact. Left fielder Ryan Spilborghs, right fielder Chad Huffman, catcher Luke Carlin, center fielder Ezequiel Carrera, second baseman Cord Phelps and first baseman Russ Canzler contributed with the hits, resulting in three runs and a lead that would hold up for the rest of the game.
Right-handed starting pitcher Corey Kluber, making his second start of the season, responded to a first-inning jam in a big way. He gave up a hit and a walk, but left two runners stranded by striking out the side.
The Clippers got on the board in the bottom half of the first courtesy of a Matt LaPorta sacrifice fly that was set up by a Phelps triple. Phelps' drive just missed clearing the wall in center.
Indianapolis manufactured a run in the second, piecing together a single, a hit batter and two productive outs to tie the game 1-1.
Columbus punched right back, regaining the lead when Huffman sent a solo homer (2) out to center.
After both teams went three up, three down in the third and fourth innings, action picked back up in the fifth.
Kluber struggled with his control, setting up the inning with his second walk and hit batter of the game. Jordy Mercer made him pay by leaving Huntington Park with a three-run shot (2), giving the Indians a 4-2 lead.
Once again, the Clippers were ready to counter. Their own half of an explosive fifth inning began with three straight singles from Spilborghs, Huffman and Carlin. Spilborghs scored on Carlin's hit, cutting the lead to one.
After a Gregorio Petit strikeout, Carrera picked the torch back up and delivered a base hit of his own that put Carlin across, knotting the score at 4.
Phelps would add another knock, loading the bases with just one out. After Matt LaPorta struck out, Canzler delivered the biggest hit of all. His soft liner to center brought pinch runner Matt Pagnozzi home easily, but Carrera was controversially called out trying to score behind him, much to the dismay of the majority of the 6,229 in attendance.
Still, the Clippers regained the lead, and they would not relinquish it.
Indianapolis threatened to tie the game in the seventh frame against Kluber's replacement right-handed reliever Frank Herrmann, but were turned away at the plate by their own overaggressive baserunning.
They went quietly after that, as left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone and right-handed pitcher Chris Ray pitched 1-2-3 eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Hagadone earned his second hold of the season. Ray, his second save.
Kluber gave up three hits and four runs in his five innings of work, walking two, hitting two and striking out eight. He is now 2-0 with 18 strikeouts in ten innings pitched this year.
LaPorta failed to collect a hit in a game for the first time this season, ending his streak at seven.
The Clippers now take to the road for the first time, beginning a four-game series at Louisville Friday night. They took of three of four games from the Bats at Huntington Park to start the season.