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:
After losing an early lead and another in the middle innings, the Indians fought back to tie the game in the seventh, but lost in extra innings as Brian McCann’s RBI-double off of Tommy Hunter in the top of the eleventh would prove to be the difference as Cleveland fell to the New York Yankees on Saturday by a 7-6 final.
It was a rough start for Danny Salazar in his final start of the first half and his first since being named to the American League All-Star team on Tuesday. He pitched with traffic throughout his five and two-thirds innings on the mound and got burned by the big inning twice, despite being given a pair of early leads by his offense.
After Salazar stranded a pair in the first on a strikeout of Didi Gregorius, the Indians stepped in against their former ace, CC Sabathia, pitching nearly eight years to the date that he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. Sabathia hit Rajai Davis with the third pitch of the game after getting ahead of him 0-2. Jason Kipnis sacrificed Davis to second and he stole third before Francisco Lindor grounded to short. Mike Napoli drew a walk after falling behind two strikes and Carlos Santana singled in the infield to the hole between third and short to plate Davis with the game’s first run.
When it comes to the Cleveland Indians, it is the team’s starting pitchers that get most of the press and publicity, and rightly so. However, through the first two months of this baseball season, the Tribe’s relief pitching has been every bit as good as the guys taking the mound at the start of each game.
Cleveland’s bullpen, the backbone of the squad only a few years ago, is getting back to shutting down the opposition late in games, as it did during the Bullpen Mafia Days of 2011-2013.
As has been the case the past few years, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw remain the stabilizing forces in the back end of the ‘pen as Cleveland’s closer and top setup man, respectively. The duo both got off to rough starts to this season, but have each settled in and made it very difficult for the other team’s offense to even think about erasing a late Indians lead.
For the fifth straight game, the Cleveland Indians played a one-run game. For the fourth time in that stretch, they came up on the wrong side of the final outcome as a pair of late rallies fell short and the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tribe by a 4-3 final.
In a close game knotted at three in the bottom of the seventh, the Phillies flared the go-ahead run in off of reliever Tommy Hunter in his first outing for Cleveland. David Lough started the inning with a pinch-hit single to center and moved to second on a sacrifice from Peter Bourjos. Odubel Herrera flied out to left, but Freddy Galvis blooped a pitch in on his hands just in front of right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall to score Lough from second to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.
Prior to starting their three-game series in Philadelphia against the Phillies, the Cleveland Indians announced on Friday that they have activated reliever Tommy Hunter from the 15-day disabled list.
To make room on the 25-man roster for Hunter, the Indians have designated left-handed reliever Ross Detwiler for assignment.
After such a mild winter, few could have expected that the first week of both the Major League and Minor League schedules would be filled with cold and wet weather that would stand in the way of the national pastime.
While the Indians were dealt a pair of postponements in Cleveland and another over the weekend in Chicago, their Triple-A affiliate in Columbus has had almost no luck getting in baseball.
After losing three days of baseball to start the season, the Clippers again had to postpone a ball game as rain flooded the Columbus area and washed out the first game of their series with the Louisville Bats, the affiliates of the Cincinnati Reds.
If the Cleveland Indians think that they have had it bad with the weather in the first week of the season, one can only wonder how their Columbus Clippers affiliate feels after trying repeatedly to open their 2016 Triple-A schedule with a four-game series with the Indianapolis Indians.
The Clippers were set to host the Indianapolis club, their International League West rivals and opponent last season in the battle for the Governors’ Cup, one ultimately won in five games by Columbus. The team planned a championship ring ceremony prior to first pitch, but the problem was determining not what time, but what day, that the first pitch of the season was going to occur for the two clubs.
Monday hardly went as planned for fans of the feather as Mother Nature intervened on Cleveland’s unofficial Home Opener holiday. The Indians and the Boston Red Sox will give it a second try on Tuesday in a rescheduled 1:10 PM ET first pitch.
Gates open for the day’s new festivities at 11:00 AM ET.
Corey Kluber (9-16 in 2015, 3.49 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) is again set to take the mound in the season opener for the Indians. The Tribe’s ace and former Cy Young Award winner is looking to start his 2016 in a much better fashion than he began last season, when he was marred in a losing skid to begin his campaign. The Indians lost each of his first seven appearances while he was dealt the loss in five before winning his first game in a memorable 18-strikeout, one-hit, eight-inning performance against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 13. His next start, tentatively Sunday, April 10, in Chicago against the White Sox, will come on his 30th birthday.
Nearly half of the roles in the Cleveland Indians’ bullpen are up for grabs this spring, further emphasizing the volatility of relievers in Major League Baseball today.
While the Indians’ relief staff put together a solid year overall last season, the club still devoted a significant amount of time to acquiring extra relievers to battle for the handful of spots available in their ‘pen. Most were brought in on minor league deals, like veterans Joba Chamberlain, Craig Stammen, and Joe Thatcher, while another (Dan Otero) was a cash swap with the Philadelphia Phillies. Several others are young internal candidates who have climbed the organizational ranks but have minimal experience and consistent results at the MLB level to speak of.
Then there is Tommy Hunter, a former starter who has found success in recent years in a right-handed relief role after struggling in the rotation. He was added to the roster earlier this month when he inked a one-year, $2 million Major League contract with the Tribe, with another $1 million possible through incentives.
The problem is that Hunter can’t contribute, at least not yet.
If the offseason focus on the bullpen was not evident enough, the Cleveland Indians continued to look at strengthening its relief corps as they signed free agent reliever Tommy Hunter to a one-year Major League contract for the 2016 season.
A 29-year-old right-handed pitcher and former starter at the MLB level, he split last season with the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs.
To make room for their new reliever, the Indians designated catcher Tony Wolters for assignment. The former middle infield prospect converted to catcher several seasons ago, but hit just .209 in 65 games for Double-A Akron in his sixth season in the Cleveland organization last year.