COLUMBUS – One of the problem areas for the Columbus Clippers this season has been coming from behind. They are 14-33 when the opponent scores first, and that is one of the biggest reasons they sit 12 games behind the Indianapolis Indians in the International League West standings.
This inability to put together any comebacks hurt Columbus (44-45) once more Saturday night, as they fell to the same Indians (56-33) by a final score of 10-5. The Clippers gave up four runs in the first inning, and they were never able to rally back.
One of the main factors in this rough first inning was the pitching of Clippers starter T.J. McFarland (3-2, 5.23 ERA), who struggled with just about every pitch and batter. The 4-0 Indians lead came courtesy of four hits and two walks, and RBIs would go to Indianapolis first baseman Jeff Clement, right fielder Brandon Boggs, second baseman Anderson Hernandez and designated hitter Jose Morales.
Going down early is something that troubles manager Mike Sarbaugh, but he still thinks his team is good enough to come back from any deficit.
“Anytime in the first you definitely don’t want to get behind in the game like that,” Sarbaugh said. “We feel good about our offense. We thought we were still in the game and it was the first inning.”
Unfortunately for McFarland and the Clippers, the bleeding continued in the second. Indians left fielder Starling Marte brought a run in with a ground ball single up the middle to make it 5-0 and make the deficit seem even more insurmountable. The lone silver lining came as McFarland forced Clement to ground into an inning-ending double play with a runner on third.
Things seemed like they might turn around in the bottom of the second, as Indianapolis starter Justin Wilson (7-4, 3.44 ERA) struggled mightily with his location. After allowing a leadoff walk to Clippers designated hitter Russ Canzler, he gave up an opposite-field home run to third baseman Jared Goedert that cut the deficit to 5-2. It was Goedert’s eighth long ball of the year.
Wilson’s problems continued after giving up the homer, as he walked the next two batters and ultimately allowed a third run on a sacrifice fly by right fielder Trevor Crowe. First baseman Matt LaPorta would eventually fly out to end the inning with the bases loaded, but after two innings the score was 5-3 and suddenly the game didn’t seem so unwinnable.
However, this momentum did not last for long. McFarland once again struggled in the third inning; loading the bases and ultimately giving two runs back on a single up the middle by Indianapolis third baseman Brian Friday. After loading the bases once more, McFarland left the game after just 2.1 innings of work. In that time he gave up 10 hits, eight runs and four walks.
“He struggled with his fastball command early,” Sarbaugh said. “He was getting behind in counts, and when it did come across they put good swings on it.”
Even after McFarland left the game, the Indians continued to tack on runs while the Clippers struggled to generate anything offensively. Hernandez made it 9-3 with an infield RBI single in the fourth while in the seventh inning it was Boggs knocking one in that made it 10-3. By the end of the game, every batter in the Indians lineup had at least one hit.
As rough as Wilson’s second inning was, he took advantage of a deflated Clippers team after that and was able to last five innings and get the win. He surrendered three runs on three hits and four walks while striking out six. At one point the Clippers went 10 consecutive batters without a base runner.
Columbus scored a run in each of the final two innings to make it 10-5, but it was too little too late. The RBIs went to shortstop Gregorio Petit and center fielder Tim Fedroff.
The Columbus Clippers will finish the series against Indianapolis on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. This will be their final game before the three-day All-Star Break.