Knights pull away from Clippers late, win 9-4
COLUMBUS – As their recent nine-game road trip went along, it seemed as if the Columbus bats were coming alive. In the last three games against the Charlotte Knights, the Clippers went .483 with runners in scoring position.
None of that improvement was apparent on Friday night, as Columbus (35-40) fell to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (43-30) by a final score of 9-4. It was a tight contest at first, but one big inning for Lehigh Valley proved to be more than enough to seal the deal.
The Clippers jumped ahead in the first inning for the second straight game, and once again it was second baseman Cord Phelps coming up big. After going down in the count 0-2, Phelps fouled off four pitches and eventually launched an RBI double to center field. After one, Columbus led 1-0.
It was the Clippers defense that had some trouble in the third inning, and Lehigh Valley was able to tie the game at one. IronPigs center fielder Kyle Hudson lined a ball to Clippers third baseman Jason Donald, who came close to grabbing it for the out but ultimately couldn’t. He still had a chance to get Hudson at first, but he overthrew the ball by quite a bit and IronPigs right fielder Steve Susdorf was able to score while Hudson advanced to second.
Phelps was able to come through again for Columbus in the third with a two-out RBI single up the middle that gave the Clippers a 2-1 lead. However, the IronPigs would strike back with a vengeance.
After throwing three solid frames to begin the contest, Clippers starter Chris Schwinden (4-6, 3.38 ERA) had a nightmare of a fourth inning in which he allowed six runs on seven hits. Things looked ominous when Lehigh Valley designated hitter Erik Kratz launched the first pitch of the inning out of the park to tie the game.
From there, six of the next seven IronPig hitters would get singles to take the lead and then extend it to 6-2. A healthy dose of salt was thrown into the wound as a wild pitch by Schwinden brought in yet another runner to make it 7-2. He made it out of the inning himself, but not before the damage was done.
Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh said the fourth inning was a combination of weaker pitching and better Lehigh Valley hitting.
“He just left some balls up and they put some good swings on it,” Sarbaugh said. “He was throwing the ball well up until that point.”
Lehigh Valley starting pitcher Tom Cochran (5-1, 3.53 ERA) gave up a handful of hits, but never allowed the Clippers to put together a huge inning. He went five frames and allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out two, walked four and went on to get the win.
Columbus wasn’t without their opportunities. The leadoff man reached base four times, but they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and grounded into four double plays. If situational hitting improved at all during the road trip, the Clippers went right back to square one in their return to Huntington Park. Columbus also committed three errors on the night, which did nothing to help matters.
While the Clippers were unable to break through the wall on Friday, Sarbaugh believes it’s just a matter of continuing to fight.
“You just got to keep battling,” Sarbaugh said. “You’re going to hit into double plays, you’re going to make errors. Anytime you give a good club extra outs they’re going to make you pay, and they did tonight.”
The most explosive moment for the Columbus offense came in the eighth, as left fielder Russ Canzler launched a two-run home run to center field that narrowed the deficit to 7-4. Ultimately, it proved to be for naught as the IronPigs would get the two runs right back in the ninth thanks to a two-run single by right fielder Steve Susdorf.
The Clippers will continue their four-game series against the IronPigs on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m.