Clippers 13, Bulls 2 – (box)
Series: COL wins, 3-1
It was a perfect night for Columbus on Friday in Durham. Not only did they lay the wood to the Bulls to take home the Governor’s Cup, but AAA rookie Jason Kipnis decided to put some icing on the cake by hitting for the cycle.
As usual, the Clippers got solid starting pitching, and their offense took care of the rest as it has done for the majority of these IL Playoffs. And, while it’s hard to pick one guy as the offensive leader when the team lays down as many runs as did the Clippers, Kipnis deserves special mention, as he was playing in just his fourth game in AAA.
The Clippers got back to their normal MO for these playoffs, which was to score early and as often as possible. It was the top of the lineup starting things off for Columbus on this night, as Jose Constanza led off the game with a double. After Ezequiel Carrera moved him to third with a sac bunt, a Cord Phelps ground-out pushed the first run across. There would be no more scoring, but it set the tone early for the Clippers.
They’d get to Paul Phillips again in the second, ending his night prematurely. Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a solo blast (homer, check!) to right to make it 2-0. After back-to-back singles by Jared Goedert and Jared Head, followed by a sac bunt by catcher Damaso Espino, the Clippers were primed to strike. And, strike they did, as Josh Rodriguez followed with a single to left to score Goedert and move Head to third. That was it for Phillips, and Dale Thayer came in to relieve. However, he was promptly greeted by a squeeze bunt from Constanza, scoring Head to make it 4-0.
Durham would finally get on the board in the bottom of the third, as a two-out single by Elliot Johnson followed by a walk and a wild pitch would put runners at first and third. Sadly, Paolo Espino couldn’t wriggle free, as he gave up a double to Chris Richard to make it 4-1. Espino, however, was able to escape any further damage by getting Leslie Anderson to fly out to end the threat.
Kipnis would get his requisite single (single, homer, check!) in the third. The teams would trade runs in the fourth inning, as the Clippers’ top of the lineup would manufacture another run. Constanza drew a one-out walk, and promptly stole second base. A Carrera ground-out would move him to third, and he’d score on Phelps’ two-out single to right to make it 5-1. Durham would answer, however, on a two-out Justin Furmaniak single to score Angel Chavez. Espino would again get out of a jam, though, as Durham left the bases loaded in the fourth.
Columbus really broke the game open in the fifth off of Mike Ekstrom, who had come in to relieve for Durham. Kipnis led things off with a double (single, double, homer, check!). After Goedert lined out, Ekstrom hit Head with a pitch. A Damaso Espino ground out put runners at second and third, but with two out it looked like Ekstrom might escape. But again, Josh Rodriguez had other ideas, rapping another single to center to score Kipnis and Head to make it 7-2 Columbus and chase Ekstrom.
Espino made quick work of the Bulls in the fifth, and the Clippers came right back in the sixth to start driving nails into the coffin. Phelps led off with a double to left, and with Wes Hodges batting Durham’s Darin Downs uncorked a wild pitch to move Phelps to third with nobody out. Hodges, however, couldn’t deliver, as Durham pulled the infield in and he grounded out to second. Kipnis, however, was able to pick his teammate up, as he ripped a triple (single, double, triple, homer, check!) off the right field wall to score Phelps to make it 8-2 and clinch hitting for the cycle.
Kipnis was the first Clipper since Mitch Jones (yeah, I don’t know either) in April of 2005 to hit for the cycle. And Jared Goedert added insult to injury for Durham, driving Kipnis in with a double to make it 9-2. And then Jared Head, not to be outdone, rapped a double of his own to make it 10-2 to chase Darin Downs. Damaso Espino notched a single to center that was promptly misplayed by CF Justin Ruggiano to allow Head to score to make it 11-2. Break open the champagne! The Clippers added two more in the 8th for good measure, on a Goedert single, Head double, and two ground-outs.
Paolo Espino was good-but-not-great, but he didn’t have to be better than that on this night. He worked 6.0 innings, allowing 2 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5. Aaron Laffey, Zach Putnam, and Vinnie Pestano each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the series, with just one hit allowed between the three of them. Pestano recorded the 27th out in perfect fashion, striking out Omar Luna to clinch the title.
For manager Mike Sarbaugh, this is the fourth minor league title in eight years as a manager, including two in a row (Mahoning Valley, 2004; Kinston, 2007; Akron, 2009). I’ll have more on the series as a whole in the normal Clip Show spot on Tuesday, as today it’s just nice to bask in the win for the title. The newly minted IL Champs have one more game to go next week. They face off in the AAA National Championship against the Pacific Coast League champion Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners). The game will be played on Tuesday the 21st in Oklahoma City. First pitch is 8:05 PM EDT. The game will be televised on Versus, so be sure to check it out!
Photo Credits: BrianFlemingPhotography.com