Columbus Clippers Clinch Third Straight International League West Crown
Bob Toth | On 25, Aug 2016
On Wednesday, Columbus reliever Cody Anderson struck out the Indianapolis Indians’ Austin Meadows swinging to strike out the side and clinch the International League West Division for the Clippers with a 3-1 win at Victory Field.
Pushing their lead to 14 games, the Clippers became the first Triple-A team to clinch a division crown in 2016 as the club won its third title in the last three years. Columbus will get to relax some prior to the playoffs this season, which is a big change from their late September 7 clinch date last season. Twelve games remain on the Clippers schedule for this season while the team awaits its opponent for their postseason run.
At 78-54, Columbus is riding its hottest streak of the season, as it has now won nine straight games.
The Clippers put the divisional race to bed on Wednesday with a blend of clutch pitching and timely hitting. Left-hander Shawn Morimando gave the club six innings of one-run baseball and last season’s postseason hero, Michael Choice, provided the big hits with the decisive run and the always important insurance run.
Indianapolis sent recently acquired Drew Hutchison to the mound, hoping to hold off elimination by using the starter picked up in Pittsburgh’s trade of Francisco Liriano with the Toronto Blue Jays. He struck out the side in the first and issued a two-out walk in the second, but the game remained scoreless into the third.
After a lineout to third by Collin Cowgill, Yhoxian Medina got the offense going with the first of three straight one-out singles. Erik Gonzalez followed with his before Ronny Rodriguez drove in the game’s first run with his line drive single to center. A walk to Yandy Diaz loaded the bases for Choice, who flied to left to score Gonzalez to give the Clippers a 2-0 lead.
Columbus’ Adam Moore and Joey Butler each walked to start the fourth, but Cowgill lined out and Medina grounded into a force at second. Gonzalez walked to load the bases, but Rodriguez could not deliver in his at bat as he struck out to leave the bases loaded. Indianapolis immediately made that more costly as Meadows homered to right to cut into the Indians’ deficit, making it a 2-1 Clippers lead.
Choice got the run right back in the fifth, crushing a deep shot to left for his 13th homer of the season to extend the Clippers lead to 3-1.
Hutchison turned the game over to A.J. Schugel in the sixth and the right-hander kept the game close, giving up just one hit in three scoreless innings while striking out four. Former Cleveland pitcher Justin Masterson pitched the ninth, striking out one and giving up a double to Cowgill, but keeping the score the same.
Morimando left after six innings, having allowed a run on three hits with a walk and five strikeouts. Tommy Hunter and Craig Stammen each worked perfect innings of relief in the seventh and eighth before Anderson took over in the ninth, earning his first professional save in memorable fashion by striking out all three Indians batters to close out the 3-1 win.
Morimando got the win to improve to 5-1 with the Clippers and 15-4 on the year counting his 10-3 mark with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
The Clippers won the Governors’ Cup in 2015, their eleventh title in their history and their fourth win in seven years. They will look to defend that in a couple of weeks, possibly with a slightly different roster in preparation for the Major League’s postseason roster deadline and September roster expansions, and will enjoy a breather after clinching early. The remaining three playoff spots in the International League are not close to being determined, but could come down to the team with the league’s best record, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and a four-team race in the IL South between clubs all under the .500 mark.