The Clippers return home, but lose 5-1
COLUMBUS—The Clippers 10-game road trip ended Monday afternoon, but the losing that defined Columbus’ performance in opposing team’s ballparks over the past week and a half did not.
Columbus returned home to Huntington Park Tuesday night, and for the seventh time in eight games, the Clippers were defeated, falling to the Syracuse Chiefs, 5-1. The loss opens an eight-game home stand after the Clippers lost seven of ten contests on the road.
The 8,003 fans in attendance saw Syracuse right-hander Yunesky Maya have his way with Columbus batters for the 6.2 innings he pitched. Maya left the game in bottom of the seventh inning with an upset stomach.
“(Maya) was spotting his fastball. His changeup was very effective, occasional curveball mixed in. We couldn’t figure him out,” Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said.
Seven hits were sprinkled in off Maya (3-4), but only one was able to drive in a run: catcher Matt Pagnozzi’s fielder’s choice groundball to third base in the bottom of the seventh inning.
All other opportunities were squandered, the best of which were a two-on one-out situation in the bottom of the first inning and a two-on two-out chance in the bottom of the seventh inning. Left fielder Matt LaPorta grounding into a double play and a diving catch by Chiefs’ center fielder Corey Brown ended those rallies, respectively.
Second baseman Cord Phelps was the only Clipper to record two hits in the game, going 2-for-4. Laporta rarely saw good pitches to hit as the Chiefs’ pitchers fed him mostly changeups and breaking balls.
Sarbaugh wasn’t surprised to see Syracuse deal with LaPorta that way. He is, after all, hitting .331 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs.
“Coming in with his numbers, they’re going to be more careful with Matt. He’s got to do a good job of laying off those pitches out of the zone,” Sarbaugh said.
Syracuse took no time getting out to a lead, as the Chiefs plated two in the top of the first inning on a home run off the top of the scoreboard in right-center field by left fielder Xavier Paul.
Paul’s shot was the first of two homers given up by Clippers’ right-hander Corey Kluber. An opposite-field dinger by Brown in the top of the fifth inning put the Chiefs up, 4-0, and an RBI-double by Paul two batters latter increased their lead to five.
Paul and Brown led the way for Syracuse with a combined four hits, two homers and all five of the Chiefs’ RBIs.
Kluber (3-3) lasted just 4.1 innings, throwing 93 pitches while giving up nine hits. What Sarbaugh said Maya did well—locating his fastball—Kluber did not.
"He struggled with his fastball command tonight, that was the difference,” Sarbaugh said of his starting pitcher. “I thought his secondary stuff was good. His cutter, slider with his changeup was very good. But if you can’t locate that fastball it’ll put you in hitter’s counts.”
The five runs the Chiefs scored off Kluber could have been a lot more if not for some good defense.
Pagnozzi caught two runners stealing, Brown in the sixth and Paul in the second, and the Clippers infield turned four double plays, two of which ended innings.
Making most of those double plays were Phelps and newly assigned shortstop Jason Donald, who was sent down to Columbus after Cleveland called up former Clippers’ closer Jeremy Accardo.
Donald went 1-for-3 with a walk, hitting second in his 2012 Clippers’ debut.
“They did a nice job. Those plays kept us in the ball game, we just couldn’t put anything together offensively,” Sarbaugh said.
The Columbus bullpen had a day as well. Right-hander’s Hector Ambriz and Matt Langwell combined to throw 4.2 scoreless innings with the Clippers trailing.
The Clippers will try to get their offense going in the second game of a four-contest set with Syracuse on Wednesday night at 6:35 p.m.