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The Clippers kick off the Governor’s Cup Finals series tonight at home again Lehigh Valley, after completing a first-round sweep over the Durham Bulls this past Friday night. The Clippers looked unstoppable against Durham, out-scoring the Bulls by a collective 16-5 in the three game sweep. Their starters were lights-out; their offense was clutch; they shut down the Bulls’ stars on offense. In short, it was a complete domination. And, to me, it defied all logic. But, we’ll get to that in a moment.
This Week: 3-0 Playoff Results: Beat Durham 3-0 to advance to the Governor’s Cup Finals
The Clippers set their post season roster by adding OF Jared Head, who accepted his outright DFA from Cleveland, as well as by adding INF Juan Diaz from Akron. They sent RHP Tyler Sturdevant back to Akron’s roster to make room for Head, though Sturdevant had pitched in Game 2. They also added RHP Cody Burns from Akron, and RHP Jason Rice off of waivers from Pawtucket, who each worked in Game 2 as well.
OF: Travis Buck, Ben Copeland, Tim Fedroff, Chad Huffman, Thomas Neal IF: Juan Diaz, Jared Goedert, Nick Johnson, Beau Mills, Argenis Reyes C: Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips SP: Paolo Espino, Corey Kluber, Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Mitch Talbot RP: Eric Berger (L), Cody Burns (R), Matt Langwell (R), Chen-Chang Lee (R), Zach Putnam (R), Jason Rice (R)
Governor’s Cup Series Schedule/Probables* *subject to change 9/13 vs. Lehigh Valley, Zach McAllister
9/14 vs. Lehigh Valley, Mitch Talbot
9/15 @ Lehigh Valley, Joe Martinez
9/16 @ Lehigh Valley*, Paolo Espino
9/17 @ Lehigh Valley*, Corey Kluber *if necessary
Round 1 Top Performers
Both the hitters and pitchers were stellar in the first round sweep, but here are some highlights:
DH Nick Johnson – 5-for-9 (.556), 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 3 runs, 4 walks
RF Chad Huffman – 5-for-12 (.417), 2 doubles, 2 homers, 4 RBI, 4 runs, 1 walk
Wild Card winner Lehigh Valley will be a tough opponent for Columbus in the finals, themselves having swept their first-round series over IL North winner Pawtucket. We’ll do what we did last week and compare regular season numbers, but given the flux of rosters and the performances in the first round, they must be taken with a grain of salt. Columbus holds a big edge in terms of offense. Here’s how they stack up (league ranks in parentheses):
That’s a pretty convincing edge for Columbus, but again: a good chunk of the roster responsible for those stats throughout the season now resides in Cleveland. That said, the Clippers’ bats were hot again in the first round of the playoffs, as noted above.
Lehigh Valley is led on offense by shortstop Kevin Frandsen and outfielder Brandon Moss. Frandsen is 29-year-old righty who hit .303 in 71 games for the Iron Pigs, whereas Moss provides what pop this lineup has. In 124 games, he hit .275 with 31 doubles and 23 home runs, and drove in 80 runs. He led his club in all three of those stat categories. Moss was a big lift in their first round series, going a combined 5-for-8 with a double and two home runs plus four RBI in games 1 and 2. For reference, his team scored seven runs in those first two games, and he drove in four of them.
As we turn to look at the pitching, this is where the comparisons balance out. Lehigh Valley clearly has the edge here, and their pitching was a big reason for their success this season:
Here, the edge is very clearly in favor of Lehigh Valley. However, it should be pointed out that both teams allowed five runs in their three-game sweeps in the first round. But, if you want to compare total depth of pitching staffs, these numbers show that Lehigh Valley clearly gets the edge.
Lehigh Valley will send 27-year-old righty Scott Mathieson to the hill in Game 1. He moved from the bullpen to the rotation, and was decent in both roles. As a reliever, he posted a 2.93 ERA in 18 appearances spanning 27.2 innings, and as a starter he worked 12 times covering 54.2 innings and posted a 3.46 ERA. As a starter, he’s holding hitters to a .222 average.
In the playoffs, the Iron Pigs’ bullpen has been led by Justin De Fratus, who despite being rather mediocre during the regular season has been, to put it simply, lights-out in the playoffs. The 23-year-old right-hander worked in both games 1 and 2, earning the save in game 1 by pitching a full perfect inning with a strikeout, and then earning the win in game 2 after a blown save by teammate Phillippe Aumont. In game 2, De Fratus worked two perfect innings to get the win, and whiffed five hitters in the process.
You can almost throw out the regular season numbers at this point. The facts are these: both of these teams swept quality opponents out of the first round, and both teams pitched very well. The Clippers had a decided edge hitting the ball in their series, and they kept Durham’s high-powered offense in check.
As I mentioned last week, last season, I picked against the Clippers in both of their series, thinking that there just wasn’t anyway they could overcome the differentials they faced on paper. Mike Sarbaugh and his troops did nothing short of make an idiot out of me, getting super-hot at the perfect time, and riding the wave all the way to the Governor’s Cup and AAA National Championship. Well, they’re now 3-for-3, as I picked against them in this past series versus Durham, and was proven not only wrong, but SUPER-wrong.
Not time to change what’s been working. Throwing out all of these numbers above, one fact remains: Lehigh Valley has given Columbus fits all season, going 5-3 against them. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but Columbus went 85-51 against everyone else in the IL. The Iron Pigs’ pitching depth is just better than the Clippers’, and as we know good pitching tends to be good hitting throughout a playoff series. Thus, I have to give the Iron Pigs the edge. I think they’ll steal a win in Columbus, and enjoy those last three games at home to clinch the title in five games. And, I’m going to stick with the rationale I used in the first round: if this series goes five games, I have to give the edge to Lehigh Valley simply by virtue again of “The Kluber Factor”: I’ve seen Corey Kluber pitch seven or eight times this year, and he’s been pretty bad almost every time out. If this goes five games and he has to start that pivotal Game 5, I can’t see him bringing it home.
DP is a native north-eastern Ohioan who has been living in Columbus since 1999. DP's main area of concentration here at WFNY is the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team, and you can catch his weekly 5-Hole columns each Tuesday. During the summers, you can also catch up on all the Columbus Clippers news that's fit to print in his Clip Show columns. In his spare time, he works in publishing, plays the drums, and wastes hundreds of dollars on Browns season tickets.