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:
MERRITT BIG TWICE SINCE RETURN
Merritt spent a quick day on the Indians roster on August 4 as the club rotated Clippers pitchers through the Cleveland bullpen. Merritt worked an easy inning of relief, retiring all three Minnesota Twins batters that he faced before being optioned back to Triple-A.
He returned to the Clippers and, despite having pitched three days earlier, made his start in Louisville against the Bats on August 7 and made his second-longest start of the season. He threw eight innings and 101 pitches, allowing four runs (two earned) on nine hits with a walk and eight strikeouts to earn the win.
He followed it up with seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball against the Chiefs on Friday, striking out six to earn his fourth consecutive win with the Clippers while improving to 9-7 on the season in 20 starts with two complete games, one shutout, a 3.71 ERA, and a 1.23 WHIP.
ARMSTRONG’S SCORELESS STREAK EXTENDED
Including two scoreless innings of work with the Indians on August 3, Shawn Armstrong has now worked 15 straight outings dating back to July 1 without giving up a run.
In the span of 17 1/3 innings, Armstrong has limited opposing hitters to a .123 average, striking out 23 and walking five while allowing just seven hits (0.69 WHIP).
He is 1-0 over those 15 games with three saves.
MORIMANDO WITH THREE STRAIGHT SCORELESS STARTS
Southpaw Shawn Morimando blanked Toledo over five and one-third innings on Tuesday to earn his third straight win and his fourth straight winning decision. He struck out three, did not issue a walk, and allowed just four hits.
He has not allowed a run over 18 1/3 innings over his last three starts for the Clippers. He is now 4-1 with Columbus with a 1.96 ERA in six starts after going 10-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 16 starts for the Double-A RubberDucks.
HUNTER ON REHAB
Cleveland reliever Tommy Hunter joined the Clippers on Friday to begin his rehab assignment. The right-hander fractured a bone in his back landing awkwardly on stairs during the All-Star break.
In his first rehab appearance on Friday, he worked a scoreless eighth inning, striking out a batter before handing the ball over to Perci Garner for the save in the 1-0 win over Syracuse.
PUSH FOR 600,000 FANS
The Clippers have announced their effort to reach the 600,000 mark in paid attendance for the 2016 season. To reach the mark with 14 home dates left, the club will need to average 9,200 fans to achieve their goal.
If the club can achieve the mark and make the postseason, they announced that “free baseball” will return for the playoffs in September for a second straight year.
Left-hander Nick Maronde was moved back to Double-A Akron to make room for Hunter on Friday.
T.J. House was optioned back to Columbus on Thursday when the Indians activated reliever Jeff Manship from the disabled list. The Clippers activated left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher from the inactive list that day; he has yet to pitch in a minor league game since his release by the Dodgers in June.
Joseph Colon returned to Columbus last Saturday to start his rehab assignment for the Indians, the same day the club received free agent signee Shawn Haviland. Matt Whitehouse was sent back to High-A Lynchburg to make room.