The home woes continued for the Columbus Clippers this week as their roster is light several of its steady contributors in recent seasons.
At 16-19, the Clippers are just a game and a half behind the first place Toledo Mud Hens and a game in back of the second place Indianapolis Indians in the International League’s West Division, despite a shaky start. They have played the second-fewest home games in the IL this season, with just a dozen contests at Huntington Park this season, but that could be a good thing as they have gone 3-9 when playing hosts.
May has been a month of streaks for the Clippers. They started the month with a pair of wins against Louisville before dropping the series finale. A rain out on May 5 shortened the rare home series for Columbus to just two games, but they were knocked off in both by Indianapolis before losing the opener of a seven-game road trip in Durham. They bounced back with five straight wins to take three of four from the Bulls and took the first two of three against Gwinnett before the Braves salvaged the finale.
The Clippers return home for five with Indianapolis beginning on Monday. The teams will squeeze a doubleheader into that packed schedule on Tuesday before the Clippers head south to Louisville for yet another road series.
In other news of note from Columbus:
ZIMMER A NEW MAN IN MAY
Top prospect Bradley Zimmer has been on fire since the calendar flipped to May.
After going 1-for-12 in his first three games of the month with a single and two walks, he has reached base safely in the last eight. He is 13-for-31 (.419) in that stretch against Indianapolis, Durham, and Gwinnett with three doubles, two home runs, and five RBI while stealing three bases in three chances to boost his batting average and on-base percentages from .253 and .321 to .294 and .371, respectively.
One of the biggest on-going concerns with Zimmer may be his continued high rate of strikeouts. He has struck out at least once in 12 straight games and has gone without a strikeout in just five of his 33 games played this season. On the year, he has gone down on Ks 43 times with just 14 walks in 144 plate appearances, a strikeout rate of 29.9% and a walk rate of 9.7% of his total plate appearances.
MERRITT EARNS A WIN
Ryan Merritt, the 25-year-old left-hander out of McLennan Community College, made his second straight quality start and fourth in seven outings this season on Thursday in a win over Durham. He held the Bulls to a run on seven hits with two walks and seven strikeouts on 103 pitches.
Merritt improved his record to 3-3 with the victory while dropping his ERA nearly half a run to 3.95.
PLUTKO GET HIS FIRST W
Right-hander Adam Plutko finally got in the win column on Friday night behind his fourth straight quality start as the Clippers defeated the Braves, 5-2.
Plutko was on the mound for six innings of work, allowing a pair of earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts. For the first time this season, he did not walk a batter, showing the control and command that had been a staple of his performances throughout much of his minor league career.
He is now 1-5 on the season with a 6.32 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP.
MORIMANDO REBOUNDS NICELY
After getting shelled for eight runs on nine hits with three walks in four innings against Durham on May 8, left-hander Shawn Morimando got himself right back on track in a no-decision against Gwinnett on May 13. He fired six innings of one-run baseball, allowing just an unearned tally while giving up six hits, a walk, and a hit batter while striking out seven. He threw a season-high 100 pitches, 64 of which were strikes.
The quality start was the fourth of the season for the 24-year-old southpaw, who is a member of the Indians’ 40-man roster.
SHAFFER ADDS TO HOME RUN AND RBI TOTALS
Utility man Richie Shaffer added three more homers to push his season total to eight with a home run barrage over the course of four games from May 7 to May 10. It moved him into a tie for fourth on the home run list in the International League and into the fourth spot on the RBI list. His 21 walks on the year are second in the league.
He hit a two-run homer, singled, walked twice, and drove in three in a 5-4 loss to Indianapolis on May 7. His two-run shot in the second inning on May 9 against Durham proved to be the difference in a 3-2 victory. He hit another homer the next day against the Bulls to put the Clippers on top 3-2, but they would need a ten-run eleventh inning to hold off Durham, 13-9.
COLABELLO HITS IN FIVE STRAIGHT
After starting hitless in the first two games of the road trip, despite drawing three walks, Chris Colabello put together five straight games with a hit to extend his on-base streak to all seven games of the trip and nine games in a row overall.
He doubled and walked three times on May 10 in game three against Durham and followed it up with a single in the series finale and again in the opener with Gwinnett. He put up back-to-back two-hit games in the final two games of the series, driving in a run on Saturday.
KRATZ CONTINUES HITTING TEAR
The season has gone well for 36-year-old veteran catcher Erik Kratz, who has hit .270 over the last ten days and is now hitting .357 on the season. If he had enough games and at bats to qualify, he would be the second-leading hitter in the International League, behind Durham’s Patrick Leonard.
The journeyman has appeared in 19 games for the Clippers and has four doubles, a triple, five homers, and ten RBI to his credit. He had hit safely in six straight games, going 8-for-25 (.320) with a homer and four RBI, before an 0-for-4 against Gwinnett ended the streak on Sunday.
He has appeared in parts of the last seven seasons at the Major League level, spending time with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Toronto, Kansas City, and Houston.
COLON EXTENDS SCORELESS STREAK
Reliever Joe Colon has not allowed a run since his season debut on April 6, a span of eleven appearances and 12 1/3 innings. It also included his brief call-up to the Indians on May 3, when he was recalled after the disabled list trip for Corey Kluber. He did not make an appearance for the Indians during his half-week with the club.
Things have been busy in Columbus in the last week with the moves of Yandy Diaz, Erik Gonzalez, and Daniel Robertson to the Cleveland roster.
Eric Stamets, the Dublin, Ohio, native, returned to the Clippers on Sunday from Double-A Akron when Gonzalez and Robertson headed to Cleveland. He brought with him an active seven-game hitting streak and an eleven-game on-base streak.
Tyler Naquin remains on the seven-day disabled list with lower back tightness. He was placed on the list on May 3 after hitting safely in each of his first 14 games for the Clippers this season.