COLUMBUS—Solid pitching and late-inning hitting propelled the Columbus Clippers to their third win in a row Sunday afternoon.
The Clippers (13-10), rallied from a 2-0 deficit through five innings to beat the Pawtucket Red Sox (15-9), 3-2, in front of 7,463 fans at Huntington Park.
Errors by the Columbus defense gave Pawtucket an early lead, but a mistake by the Red Sox defense in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Clippers the game-winning run.
With one out, and runners on first-and-second base, Clippers’ designated hitter Matt LaPorta hit a routine ground ball to shortstop. Trying to turn a double play, Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias made a bad throw to first base, allowing Clippers second baseman Cord Phelps to score from second.
“We played a little sloppy early on, which allowed a few runs. I thought we settled down,” Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said.
Phelps provided most of the offense for Columbus in the game, going 2-for-3 with a double and a home run.
Clippers’ starter, right-hander Corey Kluber (2-1), didn’t get off to a great start. It wasn’t his fault, though.
Columbus came into Sunday’s game only having recorded 14 errors on the season, but the Clippers’ defense made three costly mistakes in the game’s early innings.
With one out and runners on first and third in the top of the first inning, Kluber got Red Sox first baseman Mauro Gomez to hit a routine pop fly to first base. Clippers’ first baseman Russ Canzler dropped the ball, and then threw the ball away, allowing Red Sox designated hitter Nate Spears to score from third.
In the top of the third inning, Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias hit a chopper to Clippers’ shortstop Gregorio Petit. The throw to first base by Petit dragged Canzler off the bag, and Iglesias reached. Two batters later, Gomez hit a ground-rule double to center field, and Iglesias, after stealing second base, scored.
The errors spoiled what could have been Kluber’s fourth win of the season. Kluber lasted six innings and struck out six batters, in possibly his best outing of the season since his first start of the year on April 7, when he struck out 10 and allowed no runs.
Sarbaugh praised Kluber’s ability to throw well even when the defense behind him wasn’t playing solid.
“He was really good,” Sarbaugh said. “Gave us six solid innings. (The errors) did cost him some pitches, but he kept his composure. That’s key.”
The Clippers’ offense went five innings before it gave Kluber any help.
Phelps hit a home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning, providing the Clippers with their first run of the game.
Red Sox starter, right-hander Justin Germano (2-1) stifled Columbus’ bats through the first five frames. Germano struck out five batters and surrendered just three hits until Phelps’ shot.
Sarbaugh said he is used to seeing Germano have his way on the mound.
“We’ve seen that before. He can pitch,” he said. “He used all his pitches effectively and you can’t really sit on anything. Luckily, we were able to get to him there in the sixth.”
Phelps’ homer, his first of the season, seemed to spark the Clippers’ offense. Columbus added three more hits in the inning, knocking Germano out of the game, and tied the game on a single to left field by right-fielder Ryan Spilborghs.
“I thought that helped get a little momentum there. I don’t know if that affected Justin (Germano) at all, but it seemed to start the inning for us, that’s for sure,” Sarbaugh said of Phelps’ home run.
An error by the Red Sox defense allowed the Clippers to take the lead an inning later. With one out, Columbus designated hitter Matt LaPorta hit into what could have been a double play, but the throw to first base was wide. Phelps, who was on second base, scored on the wild throw, giving Columbus a 3-2 lead.
Right-hander Cody Allen replaced Kluber in the top of the seventh inning, making his Clippers’ debut.
Allen, who has sped through multiple levels of the Indians’ farm system in less than a month, allowed no runs facing the heart of the Red Sox order. He followed up a scoreless seventh with a scoreless eighth inning.
Clippers’ Right-hander Chris Ray recorded his fifth save of the season in the ninth inning.
Columbus and Pawtucket will play the finale of a four-game series on Monday at 6:35 p.m.
Andrew Holleran is a third-year journalism student at The Ohio State University. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewjholleran or reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.