A seventh inning grand slam by top prospect Bradley Zimmer broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh and the Clippers held on as Columbus defeated the Gwinnett Braves, 6-4, on Thursday night from Huntington Park.
Gwinnett’s Rob Wooten took over for starter Aaron Blair in the bottom of the seventh and promptly walked Yandy Diaz. A single by Guillermo Quiroz put Diaz into scoring position, but Giovanny Urshela lined out to center and Jesus Aguilar struck out. Michael Choice walked, loading the bases for the young Clippers outfielder, who delivered the clutch two-out bases-clearing bomb to right to give Columbus a 6-2 lead.
A two-run homer in the top of the eighth by Reid Brignac broke a 2-2 tie as the Gwinnett Braves held off a Columbus rally in the bottom of the ninth and the Clippers fell in the International League semi-final opener, 6-5, at Huntington Park.
The Braves’ Triple-A affiliate and IL South champions took a 2-0 lead in the second against Columbus starter Adam Plutko. Blake Lalli singled with one out and scored on a two-out, two-run homer from Daniel Castro to give the Braves the lead.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.
Jesus Aguilar capped off a powerful season at the plate with a big final week of the International League regular season, earning the league’s Batter of the Week award for games played between August 29 and September 5.
The team that helped the Columbus Clippers claim the International League West Division crown will not be the same team that tries to advance to the Governors Cup later in the month. The September call-ups have deprived the Clippers of several weapons from their bullpen and several more regular contributors from their every day lineup.
With the division already locked up, the Clippers (80-61) have gone on a bit of a losing skid, dropping three straight, four of their last five, and six of their last eight. Despite the tough stretch with the roster in a state of flux, their lead over Indianapolis and Louisville sits at eleven games heading into action over the weekend. They will wrap up their season with one more at home against Toledo before heading to the northwest corner of the state for two more against the Mud Hens before the playoffs start on Wednesday. In addition to the Clippers, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in the North Division have locked up playoffs spots, with the South Division completely up for grabs between four teams who will all finish with records below .500.
In other Clippers news and notes from the Ohio state capital:
Any chance that Bradley Zimmer breaks camp with the Cleveland Indians at the end of spring training in 2017 may come down to how well he performs in Arizona this fall.
Zimmer, the Indians’ top prospect in the farm system, was one of eight minor leaguers named by Cleveland to participate in the annual Arizona Fall League as members of the Mesa Solar Sox. Joining Zimmer in the Mesa outfield will be Double-A Akron’s Greg Allen. High-A Lynchburg’s Yu-Cheng Chang will be on the roster at short. Three relievers – Trevor Frank (Lynchburg), Cameron Hill (Akron), and David Speer (Akron) – will get additional work in the Solar Sox bullpen, while right-handed starter Michael Peoples (Akron) will also be on the roster.
Akron’s Eric Haase is also on the club as one of the taxi squad members, activated just twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Cleveland Indians announced a handful of transactions on Thursday afternoon as the club took advantage of the September roster expansions.
The easy and expected moves were the activation of starting pitcher Danny Salazar from the paternity list and the formal addition of outfielder Coco Crisp after his acquisition from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
The Indians added additional depth at the catching position with Yan Gomes on the 60-day disabled list by purchasing the contract of backstop Adam Moore from Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the 40-man roster for the seven-year MLB veteran, the Indians designated outfielder Collin Cowgill for assignment.
A month is not nearly enough time to analyze winners and losers of Major League trades, but after more than four weeks with him on the roster, the Cleveland Indians have to be feeling pretty good about the return that they have gotten from left-hander Andrew Miller.
Miller was not the only player moved, as the Indians had to give up four players, two of whom were top prospects in the organization, in order to acquire the services of the reliever for the rest of this season and each of the next two years.
The All-Star southpaw has been everything that the Indians could have dreamed of when they pulled the trigger on the July 31 trade that brought Miller to Cleveland.
After seven seasons in the minors, right-handed reliever Perci Garner has finally gotten his call to the Majors as the Cleveland Indians announced on Wednesday afternoon that they had purchased his contract from Triple-A Columbus.
In a pair of corresponding moves, right-hander Shawn Armstrong was optioned to Single-A Lake County to make room on the 25-man roster and catcher Yan Gomes was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to create a spot on the 40-man.
Armstrong can and will likely return to the Indians roster when the Captains’ season ends on September 5. Gomes is eligible to be activated from the disabled list on September 16.
Yandy Diaz‘s name was in the news on Tuesday and for all of the right reasons as the Columbus Clippers utility man was named the International League’s Rookie of the Year.
About the only thing that could make his 2016 season more complete would be the notice to pack his bags for Cleveland for some meaningful September baseball.
The Columbus Clippers punched their ticket to the postseason on Wednesday, clinching their third straight International League West Division crown. They still have to wait to see who they may see in the playoffs, as the other two divisions still need some time to be decided.
The Clippers (78-56) extended their winning streak to nine straight games during the week before dropping each game of a two-game set in Toledo with the Mud Hens on Thursday and Friday. They completed a sweep of Toledo in Columbus just last weekend before taking three straight in Indianapolis during the week to clinch their playoff berth. They will wrap up the month with two at home against Louisville before going to Durham for three straight. September will open with three home dates against the Mud Hens before the two teams return to Toledo for two more to close out the regular season.
In other Clippers news and notes from the Ohio state capital:
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.