While late comebacks and shutouts were the tale for several of the Indians’ minor league farm clubs heading into the weekend, the long ball became the hero for two of the Cleveland affiliates on Saturday and Sunday.
After a tough 3-2 loss in eleven innings in Indianapolis to the Indians on Friday night, the Clippers looked to even things up on Saturday. The home team took an early 1-0 lead as Daniel Ortiz homered off of Columbus’ Jarrett Grube in the second, but a two-out RBI-double in the top of the fifth from Michael Choice scored Anthony Recker, who had reached on a single, to tie the game at one apiece.
The game remained knotted at one until the top of the ninth. The Clippers had been held to six hits by Tyler Glasnow and John Kuchno, but had returned the favor and then some, as Grube, Tom Gorzelanny, Toru Murata, and Austin Adams had thrown eight innings of two-hit ball.
Jesus Aguilar stepped in against Kuchno, 1-for-3 at that point with a single. The big slugger, slumping some to start the Triple-A season, played the hero with a big homer to left to give the Clippers a 2-1 lead. Adams, who had come on with one out in the eighth, remained on to close out the game, getting a pair of groundouts to shortstop Michael Martinez before Ortiz delivered his second hit of the night and the third for the Indians. With the tying run in scoring position and the winning run coming to the plate, Adams got Jacob Stallings to line out to Choice to end it.
The Clippers would need some more late inning heroics on Sunday in a back-and-forth slugfest in Indy.
Aguilar homered for the second straight game to give the Clippers an early lead, but the Indians scored one to tie it in the bottom half of the first. The Clippers added a run in the fifth as Erik Gonzalez singled home Recker with two down. With the score back in his favor, T.J. House could not prevent a response from the Indians as each of the first five batters would reach to start the inning, with three coming around to score. A leadoff walk was followed by a stolen base and throwing error that allowed the runner to move up to third. A hit batter was chased by back-to-back doubles to drive in three. A walk to Max Moroff ended House’s day and reliever Felipe Paulino got a double play grounder and a strikeout to prevent further damage.
The Clippers put each of their next three batters on base as Joey Butler and Giovanny Urshela each singed before Choice was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A grounder to third from Ronny Rodriguez scored Butler on the fielder’s choice to make it 4-3, but it would be all the Clippers could get.
Columbus reclaimed the lead in the seventh, but briefly. Butler hit a sacrifice fly and Urshela had an RBI-single as the Clippers put together five singles, but just two runs in the inning. A double from Jason Rogers was followed by a two-run homer from Moroff off of new Clippers reliever Josh Martin to give the lead back to the Indians.
The Clippers tied it at six in the top of the eighth when Guillermo Quiroz doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score two batters later on a single from Gonzalez. Tied after regulation, the game went into extras and Columbus again took the lead on a sacrifice fly from Gonzalez, who scored pinch-runner Martinez from third with the second out.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Indianapolis tied it again in the bottom of the tenth against Jeff Johnson with two outs. Adam Frazier reached on a fielding error by Gonzalez and went to second on the play. He scored on a single from Dan Gamache to tie the game at seven.
An error again factored in the scoring in the eleventh, when the Clippers took the lead for good. Urshela singled with one out and moved to second on an error in left by Frazier. After Choice lined out for the second out, Rodriguez delivered a two-out triple to score Urshela with the go-ahead run. Nick Maronde pitched the bottom half, giving up a leadoff triple to Alen Hanson. After a strikeout of Gift Ngoepe, Josh Bell lined to Jesus Aguilar at third base, who made the unassisted game-ending double play by doubling Hanson off of third.
In Maryland, the Lynchburg Hillcats continued their series with the Frederick Keys this weekend and the extra base hit paid dividends.
Lynchburg got an early 1-0 lead on Saturday on a Mike Papi homer in the second, his second of the season. Frederick tied it at one in the fourth after a pair of two-out singles drove in an earlier base knock. Taylor Murphy made it a 3-1 Hillcats game in the sixth with a two-run homer, his second, and Bobby Bradley singled in Dorssys Paulino in the seventh to make it 4-1.
The Keys began chipping into that lead in the bottom of the seventh when mistakes bit the Hillcats. Back-to-back singles were made worse by a wild pitch during the second at bat that put the leadoff hitter in scoring position. Bradley missed a pickoff attempt at first that put another runner at third base, due to score easily on a sacrifice fly. Frederick used some dramatics to tie the game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Aderlin Rodriguez homered off of Robbie Aviles to tie the game at four and force extra innings.
Papi quickly righted the score, homering for the second time in the game to make it a 5-4 game. Claudio Bautista cleared the fence several batters later with a three-run homer to blow open the game. Frederick got three singles in the tenth to drive in a run, but could not make up the difference as the Hillcats held on for an 8-5 win.
On Sunday, they jumped out to an early 5-0 lead after four innings. The Hillcats scored three runs in the third, backed by a couple of doubles from Anthony Santander and Papi, a wild pitch, and an RBI-single from Daniel Salters. Santander scored another run in the third after his single and a single from Murphy later in the inning. Salters would score in the fourth after his single and one from Paulino three batters later.
Frederick got just one run on the afternoon and it came in the fifth. Tad Gold walked, moved to second on a bunt, and advanced to third on a single. David Speer replaced Justus Sheffield on the mound, but after a strikeout, Gold got credit for stealing home on the front end of a double steal.
Papi added his third homer in two days in the seventh and two more scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball in the eighth to give the game its final, 8-1. Sheffield was charged with just one run on three hits and a pair of walks in four and one-third innings. Speer got the win with one and two-thirds innings of one-hit relief. Cole Sulser pitched the final three innings for the save, his first of the season. With two more wins over the weekend, the Hillcats improved to 8-3 and swept the four-game series from Frederick on their home field.
Photo: Max Oden/The News & Advance