Friday night’s game between the Columbus Clippers and Norfolk Tide was circled on a lot of calendars. Justin Masterson was making his second rehab start and Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor made his Huntington Park debut after being promoted from Akron to Columbus on Monday. The Clippers took an early 1-0 lead but the Tide scored two in the fourth and three more in the seventh to defeat the Clippers 5-2.
After 1-2-3 first, Masterson returned to the mound in the second and quickly had Christian Walker in a 0-2 hole. But his next four pitches were balls and Walker found himself on first base. Walker would be left stranded at first as Masterson battled back to retire the next three Tide hitters. This was the start of a pattern that would later get the best of Masterson.
The Clippers struck first in the bottom half of the second. After back-to-back one-out singles by Carlos Moncreif and Matt Carson, Ryan Rohlinger roped a two-out single to left to score Moncreif and put the home team up 1-0.
A leadoff walk in the fourth opened the door for the Tide to take their first lead of the ballgame. Masterson walked Quintin Berry on seven pitches and Jimmy Paredes (2-4, 2 RBI) moved Berry to third with a double to deep right. With runners on second and third and no outs, Walker flew out to right to advance the runners and tie the game 1-1. Steve Clevenger (2 hits) followed with a RBI single to right to score Paredes and give the Tide a 2-1 advantage. Masterson settled down to strike out Dariel Alvarez and get former Clippers and Indians second baseman Cord Phelps to fly out and keep it a one-run ballgame.
It looked like the Tide were going to extend their lead in the fifth but Masterson wasn’t having it. After allowing a leadoff double to Ivan De Jesus, Masterson walked Brian Ward. However, Masterson was able to work his way out of the jam, striking out Julio Borbon before getting the speedy Berry to hit into an inning ending double play.
With one out in the sixth, Walker once again found himself in the hole against Masterson – this time 0-1. Just like the second inning, Masterson tossed four straight balls to put Walker on base and then fought back to shut down the next two batters and keep the score 2-1.
Masterson returned to the mound in the seventh and quickly found himself in yet another jam. This time he wouldn’t get a chance to escape. After getting Phelps to ground out, Masterson walked De Jesus. Ward moved De Jesus to second with a one-out single to right. Borbon popped out to Lindor at short for the second out. With Quintin Berry batting, a wild pitch advanced the runners. Berry eventually drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases and bring Manager Chris Tremie out of the dugout. Masterson’s night was over. C.C. Lee came on in relief to face Paredes, but before Paredes could put the ball in play, Lee threw a wild pitch that allowed De Jesus to score and make it 3-1. Paredes followed the wild pitch with two-run single to left and just like that it was a 5-1 ballgame.
Masterson was charged with five runs on four hits over 6.2 innings. He struck out four and walked six on 108 pitches (62 strikes). While Masterson didn’t hit a batter, he came close several times and lacked control, especially on his slider. After a 12-pitch first, he fell into a pattern of putting runners on base and throwing extra pitches to work his way out of jams.
The Clippers got a run back in the seventh on a Matt Carson solo shot (8) to left. Carson nearly left the ballpark again in the ninth. With Giovanny Urshela on first, Carson crushed a ball to deep center. Borbon took chase and scaled the wall to make the grab and end any hopes of a Clippers comeback.
Lee stayed in the game to pitch a scoreless eighth and Bryan Price came on in the ninth to round out pitching duties for the Clippers.
Lindor started at shortstop, batted leadoff and went 0-4 with two strikeouts in his debut at Huntington Park. In four games with Columbus, the 20-year-old is hitting .267 (4-15).
Giovanny Urshela went 3-4 with three singles from the DH spot, raising his average to .273 in 71 games with the Clippers this season.
Game two of this four-game series is scheduled for Saturday at 7:05pm ET from Huntington Park. The Clippers will send T.J. House (1-3, 3.20) to the mound where he’ll face right-hander Tyler Wilson (2-0, 2.00 ERA) for the Tide.
Photo credit: Columbus Clippers Official Twitter