Seven run inning propels Clippers to 7-6 victory in home opener
Matsuzaka pulled early as Columbus gets win
COLUMBUS - An early inning hit parade would be all that the Clippers needed to hang on and defeat the Indianapolis Indians 7-6 in their home opener at Huntington Park Friday.
“It’s always nice to get a little cushion and get out there in front,“ manager Chris Tremie said. “You’d like to have that every night but as the game progresses, a lot of time so early in the game when you get out to a lead like that there’s a lot of at bats left for the other team. You just have to continue to play defense and pitch well.”
The Clippers broke out the lumber in the bottom of the second, scoring all seven of their runs off of Indianapolis starter Kyle McPherson. Leading off, shortstop Juan Diaz laced a single through the hole between first and second. Left fielder Cedric Hunter followed by smacking a double off the wall in right center.
Third baseman Ryan Rohlinger then blooped a single into right field, scoring Diaz and advancing Hunter to third. In the next at bat catcher Roberto Perez squibbed a single to third, allowing Hunter to cross the plate. Center fielder Tim Fedroff bunted for a hit to load the bases.
Continuing his hot start to the season, designated hitter Jeremy Hermida laced a single into left field that scored Rohlinger and Perez. Right fielder Adam Abraham walked to load the bases again before McPherson was replaced by reliever Kyle Waldrop.
In his second at-bat of the inning, Diaz hit a ball through first and second (almost identical to his first hit) to tack on two more runs. Hunter finished off the scoring with a single to left to put the Clippers up 7-0.
Tremie said that he liked what he saw from his offense but he’s been particularly impressed with what he’s seen out of Hermida in the early going.
“He had a real good series in Indianapolis, the first time around we played these guys,” Tremie said. “He continued that, had some great at bats and had a big hit tonight to center field. He’s really putting together some solid at bats.”
Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first start in front of the home crowd didn’t go as well as fans would have hoped. Through the first two innings, the former Boston Red Sox looked like his former self, striking out four of the first six batters he faced. The third inning was a different story.
After loading the bases, “Dice-K” allowed his first run on a line-drive single to left by shortstop Jordy Mercer. Second baseman Brandon Inge followed with groundout that scored another run.
A free pass to left fielder Felix Pie would bring first baseman Matt Hague to the dish and signal the end to the pitcher’s outing. After throwing one pitch, Matsuzaka left the game prematurely with tightness in his throwing arm.
“It was a long second inning that he sat and when he went back out there he just had a hard time getting loose,” Tremie said after the game. “We’re going to have to check and see how he feels here in a little while and then we‘ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Matsuzaka went just 2.1 innings, allowing three earned runs with four punch outs and five walks.
Despite his short outing, Tremie was pleased with the Japan native’s performance.
“He threw the ball well. I was really happy to see those first two innings of work,” Tremie said. “He threw some good fastballs down, he threw some good breaking balls and I think that part was a strong outing for him.”
Jerry Gil came on in relief and forced right fielder Jerry Sands to ground into a double play to end the inning.
The Indians would continue to battle however, tacking on two more runs in consecutive innings to narrow the deficit. A two-out liner to left by Sands drove in Mercer and Inge and brought Indianapolis within two runs of tying the game in the fifth. In the following inning, Mercer hit a sacrifice fly to left field that brought in former Clipper Jared Goedert and made it a one-run game at 7-6.
Rob Bryson pitched two scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth to hold the lead for Columbus. Closer Preston Guilmet pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up the save, his second on the season.
Gil (1-0) earned the victory for the Clippers, going 1.1 innings of relief after Matsuzaka went down. The loss was attributed to McPherson (0-1).
Three Clippers had multi-hit games. Hunter had three hits while Diaz and Perez both had a pair. Hermida and Rohlinger had two RBI a piece.
Because of Thursday’s rainout, the Clippers will play a pair of seven-inning games against the Indians Saturday. The first game, scheduled for 4:35 p.m., will pit highly touted prospect Trevor Bauer (0-0) against Indianapolis lefty Kris Johnson (1-0). David Huff (0-0) will take the hill in the second game for Columbus. The Indians starting pitcher is to be determined.