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.
The Clippers held their first significant homestand of the season last week, hosting the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for three games and the Charlotte Knights for three more over the weekend. Coming in with a five-game losing skid but with a little extra rest after a day off on Monday, the Clippers were dealt a sixth straight loss in an 8-5 defeat. They won the middle game 3-1 on Wednesday but dropped the rubber match on Thursday in a 7-4 loss. The Knights came in for the weekend and saw Friday’s game suspended by rains before they claimed the conclusion of the game the next day. Columbus won the originally scheduled game for Saturday 8-1 before dropping a 3-1 decision on Sunday.
A new month will hopefully mean new results for the Clippers, who still are within striking distance in the IL West despite the rough go to start the season. They will head back to Louisville for three with the Bats beginning Monday night. They will take Thursday off before a home series over the weekend with Indianapolis.
In other news and notes from Columbus:
DIAZ DESTROYING AAA PITCHING
While the demotion back to Triple-A was undoubtedly hard on third baseman and utility man Yandy Diaz, he has done exactly what he has needed to in his return to the top level of the Indians farm system.
Diaz has suited up eight times for the Clippers since being optioned off of the Indians roster when Jason Kipnis returned from the disabled list a week and a half ago. The 25-year-old had hits in each of his two games against Buffalo two weekends ago, including a double. As the Clippers headed home to host Lehigh Valley, Diaz brought his bat back home with him, going 5-for-12 with a double, two RBI, and four runs scored to start the homestand. He had three more hits in nine at bats against Charlotte over the weekend, getting a double, two walks, and an RBI in the series opening loss.
While his hitting streak of seven games came to an end on Sunday, he did draw a walk in his fifth game this season to extend his on-base streak to nine straight games. He carries a .345/.472/.448 slash into this week’s play.
NAQUIN RAKING AT COLUMBUS
Tyler Naquin’s demotion may have come at a great disappointment for the young outfielder, but he has not let the move discourage him or slow him down at the plate. In 12 games since reporting to the Clippers after his April 13 option, he has hit safely in every one of them.
Naquin, who turned 26 last Monday, appeared in just four games last week. He had his second consecutive three-hit game last Tuesday at home against Lehigh Valley when he had a single and two doubles while driving in two. He added singles in each of his next three appearances.
On the season, he has a .354/.415/.500 slash with two doubles, a triple, one home run, and four RBI. He has also cut down on his strikeouts, getting sat down just one time in the last five games after striking out seven times the previous five.
ZIMMER PUTTING UP NUMBERS
After a slow start, Bradley Zimmer picked it up at the plate last week with four multi-hit games in the week’s series with the IronPigs and the Knights.
He went 3-for-3 in the opener with Lehigh Valley last Tuesday with a pair of doubles and a walk. He was held hitless the next day, but did have a run batted it. He had two hits in each of the next three games for the Clippers, with a double on Thursday and both a double and a solo homer on Saturday before an 0-for-4 day to wrap up the weekend.
With his 9-for-26 week at the plate, his average climbed from .230 to .277.
GONZALEZ ENJOYED SOME HOME COOKING
Erik Gonzalez performed well for the Clippers during their six-game homestand, registering hits in five of the six contests against Lehigh Valley and Charlotte. He had three hits and a walk against the IronPigs and went 6-for-13 in the series with the Knights with five singles, a solo homer, and four runs scored.
He heads into action this week with an active six-game on-base streak. During that span, his batting average has climbed from .242 to .275 and his on-base percentage has increased from .261 to .295. He has also kept himself versatile in the field this season in Columbus, spending time at second and third base, shortstop, and both left and right field.
COLON’S SCORELESS STREAK
Reliever Joe Colon had a nearly perfect month of April on the mound for the Clippers.
After a rocky start to his season, which included a run on two hits with two walks in an inning on April 6 against Louisville, Colon has put up nothing but zeroes in the runs column. In eight outings since his season debut, he has worked nine and one-third innings while allowing no runs on seven hits. In that span, he has walked just one and struck out eight.
MORIMANDO EARNS FIRST WIN
While the wins have not come easy for the Clippers this season, Shawn Morimando made it look like pretty basic stuff on Wednesday in Columbus’ 3-1 win over Lehigh Valley.
The 23-year-old left-hander worked a season-high seven innings and allowed just a run on three hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts.
HOME RUN BARRAGE
A journeyman based solely on his offseason travels last fall and winter, Richie Shaffer has gotten in some good work with the Clippers through 21 games this season.
He heads into play on Monday with a .271/.402/.543 line at the plate with four doubles, five homers, and 15 RBI on the year. Four of those home runs have come over the last ten days, including two last week against Lehigh Valley and Charlotte.
BACK-TO-BACK TWO-HIT GAMES FOR COLABELLO
Chris Colabello got his bat going over the weekend with a pair of two-hit games against the Knights.
In the game Saturday, he was 2-for-3 with a single, a homer, and three runs batted in. On Sunday, he followed up his good performance with a pair of singles and another run batted in to boost his batting average to .263 on the season with three homers and 13 RBI.
Earlier in the week, his modest four-game hitting streak came to an end.
KRATZ ADDS ANOTHER
Journeyman catcher Erik Kratz hit his fourth home run of the year when he left the yard in the continued game on Saturday. It marked his fourth home run in his last eight games played.
The 35-year-old has hit safely in ten of 12 games played this year. He is hitting .415 in those dozen games with two doubles, four homers, and six RBI.
The Clippers placed left-handed veteran pitcher Chris Narveson on the 7-day disabled list on Wednesday, retroactive to April 25, due to left shoulder inflammation. Pitcher Travis Banwart was called up from the Akron RubberDucks to take over his roster spot.
Reliever Steve Delabar was placed on the restricted list last week after being suspended by minor league baseball for a positive test for a banned substance. He will serve an 80-game suspension for his transgression.
Photo: Tom Dodge/The Columbus Dispatch