Clippers 4, Bulls 0 – (box)
Series: COL leads, 2-0
Yesterday, I led with a note about scripting a playoff win, and if I could do it what my script would look like. I wrote: “My starting pitcher would work seven solid innings, and my offense would jump out early and make the other team play catch-up.” I plagiarize myself for one simple reason: Columbus is now one win away from the IL Championship, and they’ve continued to get it done with excellent starting pitching and timely hitting.
Last night was no different, as Zach McAllister took the mound and shut down the Durham Bulls for seven innings. Cord Phelps, Jared Goedert, and Jared Head each added solo home runs, and the Clippers closed out Huntington Park for the year in style.
McAllister picked up right where Game 1 starter David Huff left off, retiring the first eight hitters he faced. After back-to-back singles with two outs in the third for Durham, McAllister settled back in and retired the next six hitters. He got some help from his defense with key double plays in both the sixth and seventh innings, but largely he was getting it done himself. He finished with a line of 7.0 IP, 6H, 0R, 0BB, and 5K. By the time he left the game, the bats had done enough to make him a winner.
Cord Phelps got things started for Columbus with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first, and you could almost feel the air come out of Durham’s balloon a little bit, a night after getting run to the tune of 18-5. The game was up in the air for a few innings, as both starting pitchers were sharp.
But, the Clippers got some breathing room by getting to Bulls’ starter Aneury Rodriguez in the fourth. With one out, Jared Goedert came to the plate. Goedert had been scuffling pretty hard in the first round series against Scranton/WB, but looked to break out of it a bit in Game 1 against Durham (but, then again, everyone was hitting in Game 1). Goedert took a Rodriguez pitch deep into the left-center field bleachers to make the score 2-0. He’s hit the ball hard consistently in both games in the Finals thus far.
The Clippers weren’t done. The very next hitter was Jerad Head, who also took a Rodriguez pitch deep into the downtown Columbus evening, via left field. It was 3-0, and with the way Columbus has been pitching it almost felt like, even there in just the fourth inning, that would be enough. And, it was.
Columbus added a run in the fifth with some small-ball (or, non-ball, depending on how you score it at home). Jose Constanza singled to right to lead off the inning, and moved to second on a sac bunt by Ezequiel Carrera. Ridriguez threw a wild pitch, moving Constanza over to third. Phelps then drew a walk. With a full count on Wes Hodges, Phelps broke for second. Hodges struck out, and Durham catcher Craig Albernaz threw through to second to try to get Phelps, completely ignoring the speedy Constanza drifting off of third. It was a perfectly executed double-steal, and you could see the look of the infielders as Constanza scored standing up to make it 4-0, and Phelps was safe at second: they knew the game was ostensibly over.
Zach Putnam—who has pitched his way into the setup role—and Vinnie Pestano worked the eighth and ninth innings respectively for the Clippers, and protected the four-run lead admirably. Both gave up a hit, but Putnam was able to pitch around a one-out double and got a big strike out to end the eighth, and Pestano fanned the side while pitching around a walk and a single with two outs in the ninth.
The Clippers fans roared their approval, with what was easily the biggest and loudest crowd of the post-season. The players and coaches hung around on the field after the game, tossing souvenirs and each getting a nice introduction and hearty cheer from the crowd. Unlike last year where the team limped home, they finished their Huntington Park year in style, winning three of their four playoff games at The Hunt.
The series continues tonight, with Columbus needing just one win in the next three games to take home the Governor’s Cup. But, the scene shifts to Durham and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, where the Bulls will send Alex Cobb (NR in AAA regular season, 0-1, 2.70 ERA playoffs) against Yohan Pino (10-9, 5.75 ERA regular season, 1-0, 0.00 ERA playoffs) for the Clippers
Photo Credit: Columbus Clippers, http://www.clippersbaseball.com