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Sailing with the Clippers: A week of ups and downs

Sailing with the Clippers: A week of ups and downs
July 14, 2014
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The week that was

The Columbus Clippers had a long week full of ups and downs.  They started the week tied for first with Indy.  The Clippers dropped three to Pawtucket and the first two to Indy before winning four straight to end the week exactly how they began it – tied for first.

Bang, Paw, to the moon Alice!

After winning the opener on Sunday, the Clipper dropped three in a row to Pawtucket.  Particularly painful were the missed opportunities in Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss.  The Clippers had the go-ahead run third with one out in the sixth inning.  But with the infield in and Carlos Moncrief going on contact, Luke Carlin hit a bouncer to first and Alex Hassan threw Moncrief out at home.  The Clippers had Tim Fedroff on second with one out in the seventh, but couldn’t get him home. 

The Clippers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and back-to-back homers in the tenth by Andres Torres and Travis Shaw off of Bryan Price sealed the Clippers fate in the tenth.

The Clippers were held to three hits by the Paw Sox on Wednesday led by knuckleballer Steven Wright.  “Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country.”  Not THAT Steven Wright.  They probably would have preferred a night of comedy but what they got instead was a night of frustration. 

The former Clipper pitched eight innings and allowed just two hits and three walks.  The Clippers had just one runner in scoring position against Wright and grounded into two double plays.  The Clippers got a run off of closer Tommy Layne in the ninth and had the tying run at the plate, but couldn’t come up with the big hit in a 3-1 loss. 

Indy .300

Losing three straight dropped them to two games out of first going into the Indy series.  The Clippers dropped both games of another doubleheader before winning four straight to end the week just as they had begun – tied for first. 

Particularly important in this six game series were performances by pitchers who weren’t with the team when the week started.  They got 7.1 innings from Gabriel Arias on Friday night.  Benny Suarez held the lead for an inning despite looking in above his head.  Jordan Cooper pitched 4.2 shutout innings in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday. 

Over the five game losing streak, the Clippers went just 3-for-32 with runners in scoring position.  They were able to reverse that trend as the weekend went along.  In the four wins on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Columbus went an even 10-for-30 with runners in scoring position, including a breakout 6-for-14 performance in Sunday’s 9-5 win.

Perez a big loss for the Clippers, big addition for the Indians

A couple of Clippers had their contracts purchased by the Indians over the course of the past week.  Catcher Roberto Perez took the roster spot of George Kottaras who was designated for assignment.  Perez made his major league debut on July 10 where he went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run and a single.  He walked in his other plate appearance.  Perez had to delay his gratification on the homer because it was originally ruled a double, but replay showed the ball ricocheted off the fencing beyond the left field wall.

Perez spent the season in Columbus prior to his promotion.  In 53 games, he batted .305 with eight homers and knocked in 43 runs.  The eight homers had already established a career high, which previously was six in 2010 with Lake County.  The 43 runs batted in is also a career high; his previous high was also in 2010 with Lake County where he drove in 38 runs.

Perez made headlines earlier this season when it was revealed that he had played last season with Bell’s palsy, a nerve disorder which controls the muscles in the face.  Last season, Perez was unable to close his left eye.

In 67 games last season with Clippers, Perez batted .167 with no homers and 24 RBI.  He is healthy this year.  That not only shows in his numbers, but also with the impact he had on the team.  The Clippers went 38-14 in games that he started, while just 12-32 in games started by any other catcher. 

His success this season translated into an invitation to the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham.

Odds and Ends

Fedr-off the roster

Tim Fedroff was transferred back to Akron after Tyler Holt was optioned back to Columbus on July 8.  At two different points this season, Fedroff had 20-plus game on-base streaks (25 games from April 5 to May 10 and 21 games from May 31 to June 30).  During the second stretch, he hit .236 with five doubles and eight RBI in 72 at-bats over 21 games.  He was getting on base, but he wasn’t hitting.  The Clippers are chock full of utility players that can handle the outfield, such as Justin Sellers and Elliot Johnson.  When Matt Carson came off the DL, Fedroff was the odd man out.

Where’d everybody go?

Travis Banwart was officially released this week and has moved on to the Korean league.  This is a big loss for the Clippers rotation because Banwart has been the symbol of consistency in the Clippers staff.  Until last week, he was the only starter to make every start this season (Tyler Cloyd pitched one game out of the bullpen).

Cloyd is now the only member of the opening day roster still on the team.  T.J. HouseJosh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are now in the Cleveland rotation.  House was on the Clippers roster this week, but not active and will pitch a game for Mahoning Valley during the All-Star break before returning to the Indians.  When Masterson returns to the Indians rotation that may change.  Until Bauer’s last start, all three had ERA’s over four in Cleveland, though they all have displayed the capacity to pitch well at the major league level.

For now, the Clippers rotation is Cloyd, Arias, Toru MurataDanny Salazar and Kyle Davies.  That being said, the Clippers have not announced a rotation for the Indianapolis series following the All-Star break.

Knights of the Round Table

Friday night saw the returns of Gabriel Arias and Benny Suarez.  After using five pitchers in the second game of Thursday night’s doubleheader, the Clippers needed Arias to eat a lot of innings.  Arias came through by pitching into the eighth.  Arias has pitched pretty well against teams not named the Charlotte Knights.  In four games (three starts), including Friday night, he has an ERA of 2.95.  But allowing nine runs (three earned) in 4.1 innings against Charlotte on May 29 and six runs (all earned) in 4.1 against the Knights on June 8 really inflated his ERA. 

Benny Suarez’s only appearance with the Clippers this season came against Charlotte on May 29, where he replaced a struggling Arias and got banged around for seven runs in 1.1 innings.  That night, he gave up four home runs.  The Clippers brought Suarez back for Friday night as an emergency to add some depth to a depleted bullpen.  After using five pitchers Friday night and losing Austin AdamsNick Hagadone and Mark Lowe in recent weeks, the Clippers needed Suarez to pitch the remaining 1.2 innings against Indy on Friday night after Arias labored in the eighth.

A bunch of bull

The Clippers bullpen was barebones on Friday night.  Mark Lowe accepted his assignment to Columbus and joined the team on Saturday and provided the Clippers with some steady help out of the pen in the last two days before the break.  When Zach McAllister was recalled on Saturday, the Indians optioned Vinnie Pestano.  While Pestano didn’t pitch for the Clippers over the weekend, he should be with the team when they return to action on Thursday night.  Also rejoining the team this week was J.C. Ramirez who picked up his first save as a member of the Indians organization on Friday night. 

Lone Star

The loss of Roberto Perez means that Jesus Aguilar is the only player representing the Clippers at the Triple-A All-Star Game in Durham on Wednesday night.  Aguilar heads to the Triple-A All-Star Game representing the Clippers as the starting first baseman for the International League team.  He’ll also be participating in the Home Run Derby despite having not homered since June 26 at Buffalo.   

The All-Star Game, which features stars from the International League against stars of the Pacific Coast League, will get underway at 7:07 PM on Wednesday night.

Also representing the Clippers are manager Chris Tremie and pitching coach Tony Arnold.

Catching Wind

1B Jesus Aguilar

(This week): 9 G, 10-31, 2 R, 3 2B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, .323 BA

Aguilar continues to consistently drive in runs for the Clippers offense.  With two outs and runners in scoring position, Aguilar is 18-58 (.310) with seven doubles, three homers, and 18 RBI.  He’s also worked 18 walks in that situation.  He drove in four of his five runs in a pair of wins over Indy.  One RBI came on a double with two outs fifth inning on Friday night.  The hit ended up being the difference in a 5-4 win.

RHP Tyler Cloyd

(Since May 20):  11 G, 10 GS, 6-2, 72 H, 23 R, 21 ER, 11 BB, 47 K, 8 HR, 2.73 ERA

Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint a clear-cut turning point.  But for Tyler Cloyd, it can be pinpointed to May 20 at Syracuse.  He has six quality starts in ten starts since then including four consecutive.  He has also won four of his last five decisions and has pitched at least six innings in each of his last six starts.  For most of the season, the model of consistency on the starting staff was Travis Banwart, but it looks like Cloyd is grabbing that title for himself.

OF Tyler Holt

(Since June 26):  16 G, 22-58, 20 R, 4 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 7 K, 8 SB, 0 CS, .379 BA, .455 OBP, .500 SLG

It’s common for a player to start strong and fall of a little after a promotion.  Holt had his period where he fell off.  In a 12-game stretch from June 12 to June 25, Holt batted just .125 with a homer and two RBI.  But even in his cold spell, he still got on base (14 walks) and still scored runs (10 runs).  But since then, he’s caught fire again.  But it’s not that stats that stand out when thinking about Tyler Holt.  He’s got range in the outfield and frequently makes highlight reel diving catches.  He rounds bases hard, forcing a throw and a possible mistake.  He steals third base with less than two outs.  He works the count.  He plays the game like his pants are on fire.  And as a fan of baseball, it’s a pleasure to watch.

Lost at Sea

INF Audy Ciriaco

(This week):  8 G, 2-24, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K, .083 BA, .179 OBP, .167 SLG

Audy had a tough week.  But even in the middle of a slump, Ciriaco hit a two-run double in the seventh inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader to give the Clippers the lead back after losing it in the previous inning.  It was the single biggest hit of the week and allowed the Clippers to escape with the win en route to a doubleheader sweep. 

Debut

Jordan Cooper made his Clippers and Triple-A debut on Saturday night in a spot start in the second game of the doubleheader.  While Cooper has experience as a starter, especially earlier in his career, he had never spent an entire season as a starter.  This season, Cooper made 25 appearances and only one start for Double-A Akron and had a 4.37 ERA.

Cooper made good on his debut, pitching into the fifth.  But he labored through the inning, walking two batters and was lifted for Josh Outman with two outs, denying him a win in his debut.  But pitching 4.2 shutout innings in a game that the Clippers won 2-1 was more important to the team than a crooked number in his stat column.

Looking Forward

Indianapolis

Hot vs. Indianapolis

  • Jesus Aguilar:  11 G, 17-36, 6 R, 5 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 8 BB, 7 K, .472 BA
  • Tyler Holt:  6 G, 8-19, 7 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 2 K, 5 SB, 0 CS, .421 BA
  • Matt Carson:  9 G, 11-28, 5 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 9 K, .393 BA

Cold vs. Indianapolis

  • Audy Ciriaco: 8 G, 2-27, 1 R, 1 2B, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K, .074 BA
  • Frank Herrmann: 2 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 27.00 ERA
  • Mark Lowe:  4 G, 0-0, 1 SV, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 10.38 ERA

Game Times and Starting Pitchers

7/14 – All-Star Break

7/15 – All-Star Break

7/16 – All-Star Game (at Durham)

7/17 – vs Indianapolis (7:05 PM) – TBA vs. TBA

7/18 – vs Indianapolis (7:15 PM) – TBA vs. TBA

7/19 – vs Indianapolis (7:05 PM) – TBA vs. TBA

7/20 – vs Indianapolis (6:05 PM) – TBA vs. TBA

Transactions

7/8 – Cleveland selected the contract of C Roberto Perez from Columbus…LHP Nick Hagadone recalled by Cleveland from Columbus…RHP Mark Lowe designated for assignment by Cleveland…RHP Travis Banwart released…C Chris Wallace (right calf) activated off 7-day disabled list…RHP J.C. Ramirez transferred to Columbus from Akron…OF Tyler Holt optioned by Cleveland to Columbus

7/9 – OF Tim Fedroff transferred to Akron from Columbus…RHP Gabriel Arias transferred to Columbus from Akron

7/11 – Cleveland selected the contract of RHP Austin Adam from Columbus…RHP Benny Suarez transferred to Columbus from Carolina

7/12 – Cleveland recalled RHP Zach McAllister from Columbus…RHP Benny Suarez transferred from Columbus to Carolina…RHP Mark Lowe outrighted to Columbus…RHP Jordan Cooper transferred to Columbus from Akron

We hardly knew ya

It was previously mentioned that George Kottaras was designated for assignment this week.  With the loss of Yadier Molina, the St. Louis Cardinals picked him up on waivers.  He will forever be remembered for hitting two home runs in his first game as an Indian.  He hit .286 with Cleveland, but only had one home run in the nine games he played after his debut.

So far with the Cardinals, he has two at-bats as a pinch hitter and is hitless.  He batted .119 with a homer and five RBI in Columbus over two different stints that covered 14 games.  

Michael Rich is a senior majoring in Communications at The Ohio State University.

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