The home woes continued for the Columbus Clippers this week as their roster is light several of its steady contributors in recent seasons.
At 16-19, the Clippers are just a game and a half behind the first place Toledo Mud Hens and a game in back of the second place Indianapolis Indians in the International League’s West Division, despite a shaky start. They have played the second-fewest home games in the IL this season, with just a dozen contests at Huntington Park this season, but that could be a good thing as they have gone 3-9 when playing hosts.
The Columbus Clippers have now lost five straight series, dating back to their three-game sweep of Indianapolis from April 10-12, and have fallen to 9-14 on the 2017 season.
Despite the rough opening month of the season, the Clippers are just three and a half games behind the Toledo Mud Hens in the International League West Division. The division has struggled as a whole, as only the Mud Hens are above the .500 mark to start the season. The Clippers are tied with the Louisville Bats and are a game and a half in front of the last place Indians, who are 7-15 to start the season.
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Countdown to Opening Day – 50 days
Like many numbers chronicled over the last nine days, the number 50 has long appeared on the backs of pitchers for the Cleveland Indians organization.
It made its debut in 1945, but was worn by catcher Gene Desautels in ten uneventful games in 1945. The light-hitting backstop, a career .233 hitter in 13 seasons in the Majors, was 1-for-9 that season with a single, a walk, and a strikeout. He spent four seasons with the club at the big league level.
When the 2016 season started, southpaw Shawn Morimando was making his return to the Double-A Akron starting rotation with a crowded mix of obstacles in his way at Triple-A Columbus. Given the number of road blocks present and a strong starting rotation in Cleveland, the opportunity that he received when he made his Major League debut on July 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays seemed all the more improbable, even after being added to the 40-man roster the previous offseason.
In his sixth season of professional ball after being selected in the 19th round of the 2011 draft out of Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, improving results throughout Morimando’s minor league career paid off for the young left-hander.
While the focus right now may be on the Cleveland Indians’ Major League roster, things are going well throughout the Tribe’s farm system as well.
The importance on drafting strong and developing stronger is no more apparent than at the Major League level for the Indians. The current playoff roster is well-balanced between guys drafted/signed internationally and developed solely by the club (Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cody Allen to name a few), others acquired via trades and developed on the farm (Corey Kluber, Carlos Santana, and other absentee names like Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes), and other veterans still who were added via big trades or free agent moves (Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp).
The names that compose the roster now all worked their way up through the minor league system, whether in the Indians organization or elsewhere. The names of the future are doing the same and some standout performers were recognized this week when MILB.com announced its picks for Cleveland’s organizational All-Stars.
Gwinnett jumped on Columbus starter Shawn Morimando early and often as the Braves rolled to an easy 11-1 victory over the Clippers from Georgia on Friday night to take a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five International League’s Governors’ Cup Semifinals.
The G-Braves gave starter Chris Ellis an early cushion on the mound, striking for two runs in the bottom of the first against Columbus’ Morimando. With one down, Mel Rojas Jr. singled and stole second before a walk by Ronnier Mustelier. Blake Lalli singled to right to load the bases and Sean Kazmar lifted a sacrifice fly to right to score Rojas Jr. with the first run. A wild pitch from Morimando let a second run score before a fly ball ended the inning.
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:
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.
Ryan Merritt followed up a strong effort during his time with the parent Cleveland Indians by combining with two relievers on a four-hit shutout on Friday night in the Clippers’ 1-0 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. The only run on the night came courtesy of a solo home run by Erik Gonzalez in the sixth inning off of Washington pitching prospect Lucas Giolito as the Clippers would be held to just three hits themselves on the night.
Columbus (68-53) has gotten hot at the right time, starting the month of August with an 8-4 record to push their lead in the International League’s West Division to eight games over the rival Indianapolis Indians and nine games over the third place Louisville Bats. Their record is good for the third-best mark across the IL landscape, trailing only the marks of the North Division’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (75-44) and Lehigh Valley IronPigs (71-48).
The Clippers wrapped up their series with Louisville by taking the final two games to go 3-1 against them, then took two of three in Toledo against the Mud Hens. They will finish their three-game set this weekend against Syracuse before continuing their homestand with three against Durham and three more with Toledo.
In other news and Clipnotes regarding the Clippers pitching staff:
Josh Tomlin, usually a stopper for the Indians’ rotation, could not bring an end to the bad string of starting efforts from the pitching staff as he gave up seven runs and could not clear the fifth as the New York Yankees defeated Cleveland by a 13-7 final on Friday night.
The win for the Bronx Bombers (55-54) pushed the club back over the .500 mark and improved their mark this season against the Tribe to 4-1 after taking three of four from a series a month ago at Progressive Field. The Indians (61-46) have now dropped four of their last five games and fell to 30-26 on the road, still one of the best marks in the American League this season.
A solid 11-2 win over the Charlotte Knights on Saturday gave the Columbus Clippers a series win with one more to play on Sunday evening. The Clippers put together a quality week, sweeping Pawtucket at home in four straight last weekend. A trip to Norfolk ended with a pair of losses, but the Clippers have guaranteed at least a 3-3 split on their six game road trip.
Columbus (60-48) is sitting in the top spot in the International League’s West Division with a four and a half game lead heading into Saturday’s late action. The Clippers will return home after Sunday’s game in Charlotte to host second place Indianapolis for four straight before bouncing back out on the road with four in Louisville and three more in Toledo.
In other ClipNotes…
After concluding their series against the Pawtucket Red Sox over the weekend, the Columbus Clippers got back to work within the division with International League West Division matchups against Toledo and Louisville.
Columbus split their final two games in Pawtucket, winning 7-2 last Saturday before a 16-inning 5-4 loss on Sunday. They took their series against Toledo during the week, winning the first and last games of the three-game set, before hitting the road for Louisville. A 6-3 loss to the Bats in the opener was followed by another extra inning loss, a 4-3 defeat in 13 innings.
The loss on Friday dropped the Clippers record to 47-42 on the season and 4-4 to start July. Combined with an Indianapolis win, Columbus is tied for the top spot in the West Division. The Clippers will play two on Saturday in Columbus against Indianapolis before closing out the unofficial first half with a 1:05 PM game on Sunday. After Tuesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game, play will resume on Thursday with four in Toledo.
In other news and Clipnotes: