AAA National Championship: Clippers 12, Rainiers 6 – Still Wearin’ Their Hittin’ Shoes

still_champs!Clippers 12, Rainiers 6 – (box)
COL wins AAA National Championship

The Clippers apparently weren’t satisfied winning the IL title; they wanted to leave no doubt in the AAA world. They followed their script from the IL Governor’s Cup Finals series, and jumped on Tacoma early, putting the game away in the fourth and fifth innings with four and five run outbursts. David Huff wasn’t great, but he didn’t have to be; the Clippers bats again carried them to the title.

To his credit, Huff was solid enough through the first two innings which allowed his white-hot offense to get an early lead. The bats got it started in the second inning, with wunderkind Jason Kipnis getting things rolling with a mammoth home run to the opposite field. Back to back doubles by Jared Goedert and Jared Head followed to make it 2-0, and Columbus was right back to doing what they’ve done best in these playoffs: scoring runs in bunches.

Luke Carlin moved Head over to third with a grounder, and Head scored on a Josh Rodriguez single to make it 3-0. The rally died when Rodriguez became the second victim of the night on Ryan Feierabend’s Andy-Pettitte-style-probably-a-balk-pick-off-move. Feierabend picked off three runners in his 3.2 innings.

Tacoma would not roll over, however. Huff issued a one-out walk to Dustin Ackley, which was followed by a single by Greg Halman to move Ackley to third. Huff then got a ground out to score a run, but it looked like he might get out of the inning with minimal damage. But, he left a pitch fat down the middle to David Winfree, who crushed a deep homer over the 415 mark in left-center field. All of a sudden, tie score!

But, when the bottom of the fourth rolled around for Columbus, it almost seemed like they were offended by the tie score. Kipnis again led things off with a double to right. Goedert grounded out, but Kipnis alertly went to third on the throw. But rather than play for one, they went for the throat. Head singled in Kipnis to make it 4-3. Carlin doubled to move Head to third as well. A wild pitch moved both runners up and made it 5-3. After Rodriguez struck out, Jose Constanza dropped down a beautiful drag bunt single past Feierabend to score Carlin to make it 6-3. Tacoma went to the bullpen and Ian Snell, and Constanza greeted him by immediately stealing second, and then moving to third on a wild throw by Tacoma catcher Jose Yepez. Carrera made it 7-3 with a single to right. The Clippers were comfortably back in command.

But they weren’t done. They elected to put the game away in the fifth. And, guess who got it started again?

With one out, Kipnis drew a walk. Goedert singled to right, and Kipnis hustled to third. Head followed with a double to score both runners and make it 9-3, but was thrown out trying to make it to third. Carlin followed with a two-out single to keep things going,and Rodriguez followed him with another single to move Carlin to third. That was it for Snell, as Tacoma again went to the pen for Andy Baldwin. Sadly for him, literally his first pitch was wild, allowing Carlin to score to make it 10-3, and JRod to moved up to second. Constanza then worked a walk. Carrera followed up with a double to score both runners to make it 12-3. That was more than enough for Columbus.

Stating the obvious, manager Mike Sarbaugh noted: “I think the key in the playoffs is to get hot at the right time.” No two hitters have been hotter than Jason Kipnis and Jerad Head. “It seemed like all series that everybody on the team had a big hit,” Head said. “Everybody came up with a big hit tonight and the pitching was great again, too.”

Sarbaugh agreed, and said, “Jared Head was huge for us.”

But it is Kipnis who made the most impact in his thus-far-short AAA tenure. In his first five games at AAA—all playoff games—Kipnis went 10-for-22 with two home runs, four RBI, and nine runs scored. He also hit for the cycle in the clinching game against Durham. “What a week. What a week,” Kipnis said. “I couldn’t be happier about how the week’s gone for me and the team… They have been just unbelievable in taking me in and making me feel comfortable right away… They make it easy to hit in this lineup. You’re up every other inning basically.”

So, after limping into the playoffs, the Clippers went on a 7-2 run where they outscored their opponents 71-30 to win the IL Championship as well as the AAA National Championship. And, with a proven winner at manager and most of these young guys probably coming back, 2011 looks to be a bright future for the Clippers.


Photo Credit: Bob Hersom /

  • Tron

    At what point does AAA champions translate into some decent Indians? I’m getting tired of watching Choo be pretty much the only person who looks like he knows how to play baseball. Great job for the Clips though, I went to 5 games this year and they were all great.

  • AMC

    Aeroes won it all last year, Clippers this year, Indians next year? Heh… I won’t hold my breath. Congrats to Clips though. Funny how there’s now two minor league titles for the organization this year and the big club will lose 90 games.

  • Pale Dragon

    Sarbaugh’s success at Akron last year and Columbus this year has to put the pressure on Acta, no?

    With all of the MLB manager openings this offseason, I’d be very surprised if Sarbaugh doesn’t get a long look from some teams. Good for him, bad for the Indians. They need to find a way to keep him in the organization, because he certainly seems to have the magic touch when it comes to coaching and developing young talent.

  • DP

    I think these are the early results of the organization re-focusing on the draft in recent years. The infield next year (depending on where they put Kipnis) could consist of Kipnis, Cord Phelps, and Lonnie Chisenhall in some capacity. All are young, and all represent recent investments in the draft in the early rounds:

    Phelps, turns 24 in January: 2008 third round pick – hit a combined .308/8/54 in 119 combined games in Akron and Columbus.

    Kipnis, turns 24 in April: 2009 second round pick – hit a combined .307/16/74 in 133 combined games in Kinston and Akron, and his first five games in AAA have been discussed ad nauseum here.

    Chisenhall, turns 22 in October: 2008 first round pick – hit .278/17/84 in 117 games in Akron.

    So, it’s silly to assume that 2011 in Cleveland = championship. What it does mean, however, is that the organization is finally starting to fill back up with high-level young talent through the draft, instead of all talent coming in via trades. It means the FO is back into developing their own players, instead of trying to sign/trade for their players from somewhere else. This is most certainly a good thing!

  • Scott

    “Sarbaugh’s success at Akron last year and Columbus this year has to put the pressure on Acta, no?”

    The only issue is that Sarbaugh would still be coaching Triple-A talent but against Major League opponents. I too am thinking highly of him after the Double-A win last year and now the Clips taking it home in 2010. Winning *something* is good. I just dont see it translating to the majors.

  • Shamrock

    “The only issue is that Sarbaugh would still be coaching Triple-A talent but against Major League opponents” opposed to the major league talent currently in an Indians uniform?

    Let the triple A kids play do what the Florida Marlins have done instead of wasting your time with the Hafners and the Martes and the Duncans of the world. Oh and I like what Mike Sarbaugh has done the guy wins wherever he coaches.

  • DP

    I agree, Pale. Sarbaugh has two things going for him: he’s won at all of the high-minors levels, and he’s done it by working with and developing young players.

    I know a lot of people might balk at bringing in another of our AAA managers (remember, Wedge and Skinner were both Buffalo managers at one point), but you have to look at Sarbaugh’s credentials and be just a little impressed.

  • brwnsgrl

    I have been very impressed with what Sarbaugh and his coaches have done. The roster this year on the Clips was a revolving door, and except for a brief slump in August, he kept them in the playoff race the whole time. I agree with Shamrock…I’d rather see the young guys on the field, with a manager who knows how to develop them. Watching the Clippers play was the highlight of my baseball season this year.

  • OmegaKing

    What I love about minor-league playoffs? A series (and an extra game) is over in the course of a week – not 3 like the MLB playoffs.