Clippers 6, Yankees 4 (10) – (box)
Series: COL leads, 1-0
“I need to work on getting a bunt down.” So said catcher Luke Carlin after the end of a wild, ten inning Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup semi-final series between the Columbus Clippers and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. If you’d seen his four failed sacrifice bunt attempts—two each in two separate late-game at-bats with runners on—you’d probably agree with him.
Except for one thing: after two bunts foul down the first base line in the bottom of the tenth with Jerad Head on first after a lead-off single, Carlin was swinging away with two strikes. And, the next thing we all knew, the ball was leaving the yard over the right field wall just under the scoreboard for a walk-off winner.
This wasn’t the first time Carlin found himself in the situation of being asked to move runners over with a bunt, and actually it wasn’t the first time he failed at bunting only to succeed while swinging away. In the sixth, the Clippers had a rally going, and after three straight hits Carlin came up with runners on first and second with no one out and a 4-2 lead. After a bunt-and-miss attempt followed by a bunt attempt fouled back, Carlin was again swinging away with two strikes, and drove a single through the right side to load the bases.
For the game, Carlin was 3-for-4 with a walk, a single, a double, and a home run. He drove in three runs, but none of course were bigger than the final hit in the 10th inning. The other stars on offense were Ezequiel Carrera, who went 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored, and Jerad Head who was 3-for-3 with two walks, an RBI, and two runs scored. Carrera also made one of the sicker catches in center field that this reporter has ever seen, where he sprinted in to shallow left-center and laid out at full-extension to rob Justin Christian.
This game set up in the early and middle innings to be the perfect scenario for the Clippers. David Huff retired the first seven hitters he faced, and Carrera—after going the entire season previously with no home runs—hit his second homer in as many games in the first inning to give starter Huff a quick 1-0 lead. I had opined on Tuesday that if the Clippers could get decent starting pitching, grab an early lead, and get to their bullpen in the 8th and 9th innings, they’d have a good shot. And that they did.
However, in the third Huff hit a bit of a speed bump, allowing a home run, double, and single back-to-back-to-back to lose the lead and allow the Yankees to go up 2-1. But, Huff regrouped and induced a double-play to the next hitter to escape. The Clippers would even things up straight away with a double by Carrera, a fielding error allowing Cord Phelps to get on second and moving Carrera to third, and a deep sac fly by Wes Hodges.
Columbus looked to have things right where they wanted them, as, with Jerad Head on base in the 4th, Carlin rapped a line drive to deep left for which the Yankees’ Christian laid out and came up empty to allow Head to score and make it 3-2. A crazy string of three straight hits—to set up Carlin’s first adventure in bunting—to start the 6th made it 4-2.
Huff struggled to get out of the seventh as Josh Judy warmed in the pen, with the Yankees getting back-to-back two-out singles with a runner on base to close the gap to 4-3. But, on a rare defensive gem by third baseman Jared Goedert, Huff was able to escape with the lead. Enter Judy, who was lights-out in the 8th, getting a quick strike out, ground out, and lazy fly out to keep the Yankees at bay.
Enter Pestano, who much like John Rocker before he went crazy, really likes to make an entrance:
Hoss likes to throw strikes. With a one-run lead, this can be a double-edged sword. So it was as Jorge Vazquez led off the top of the ninth with a bomb to center field to immediately tie the game. To his credit, Pestano regrouped and slammed the door, inducing a ground out, a strike out, and a ground out to end the Yankees’ 9th. After a single by Jose Constanza, a sacrifice bunt by Carrera, and an intentional walk to Phelps, the Clippers had a shot to end it in regulation, but Hodges grounded out and Goedert struck out to end the threat. Much like their major league brethren, the Clippers suddenly found themselves in a tie game going to extra innings.
Zach Putnam pitched a stellar top of the 10th, retiring all three batters he faced in convincing fashion. The Yankees brought in Amaury Sanit, and the stage was set. Head led off with a sharp single, and up came Carlin with the bunt again on his mind. The crowd groaned as the first two attempts trickled foul down the first base line.
But all of that was soon forgotten, as Carlin’s shot kept going and going, finally clearing the high wall in right-center field just under the scoreboard. Goodnight, drive home safely!
The series continues tonight at 6:35pm. Former Scranton/WB right-hander Zach McAllister—who came over in the Austin Kearns deal—pitches for the Clippers. McAllister was 9-12 with a 5.29 ERA overall in 27 AAA starts, and 1-2 with a 6.88 ERA with the Clippers in three starts. Scranton/WB counters with right-hander David Phelps (4-2, 3.07 ERA in 12 games/11 starts).
Photo and Video Credit/Copyright: Waiting For Next Year