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Sailing with the Clippers: April 5-8

Sailing with the Clippers: April 5-8
April 9, 2012
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Sailing with the Clippers is a weekly Monday afternoon installment that explores the week that was for Triple-A Columbus.

The Clippers began yet another title defense Thursday, starting with a four-game series at home against the Louisville Bats. Leading the way offensively was Matt LaPorta, who will be featured later on in a new addition to "Sailing" this season. Starting pitching was a huge plus, as three of the four gave up one run or less while going at least five innings and punching out at least six. This team expects to contend yet again, and the first week showed that they are ready to take every team's best shot in dethroning the back-to-back Governor's Cup Champions.

Clipper of the Week

Matt LaPorta
.375 (6-for-16), 3 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 5 K, 1.287 OPS

After four games, LaPorta leads the team in just about every offensive category, including hits, home runs, runs batted in and slugging percentage. But the questions about him performing don't pertain to this level of baseball, and we have seen such Triple-A success from him often in the past. Can he eventually put together the kind of consistent at-bats that are expected of such a highly-regarded hitting prospect?

One positive, besides the tangible results, are that both of his home runs were to the opposite field. He has had the habit of trying to pull almost everything, as most young hitters do. But at age 27, he's not so young anymore. That approach can produce results in the minors, but Major League pitchers know how to make hitters who refuse to use the other two parts of the field look silly.

On the downside, he struck out five times in four games and only drew one walk. As Indians fans know, his strike zone discipline has been another area of concern on the next level.

So far, he has played three games at first and spent the other as the designated hitter. It will be interesting to see if LaPorta spends any time in left field going forward. With the Indians having concerns about their outfield going forward, that could be his quickest path towards returning to the bigs. Of course, hitting like he did in these first four games won't hurt. But will it finally carry over?

Game-by-game results

Thursday (lost, 5-4): Zach McAllister took the hill for the Clippers in game number one. The Bats got on the board first against him with two in the second, and another in the third. Columbus scored their first runs of 2012 in the fourth, as back-to-back hits from Lonnie Chisenhall and Ryan Spilborghs brought a pair home. The score remained 3-2 until the seventh, when Louisville added another against Frank Herrmann. Ezequiel Carrera answered back with a two-run ground-rule double in the bottom half, knotting the game at 4. In the ninth, Chris Ray gave up a solo homer that would ultimately decide this contest. It is important to note that the Clippers had two runners thrown out at the plate in the early stages of the game.

Friday (won, 3-2): The Bats snagged an early lead again in game number two, courtesy of a leadoff home run against Kevin Slowey. It would be the last time they touched Slowey in his seven innings of work. In fact, he only surrendered one other hit the rest of the way. The Clippers evened it at one in the second when Lonnie Chisenhall took a pitch out to straightaway center. They would add another in the fourth, as Matt LaPorta clobbered a solo shot of his own. In the sixth, Columbus took a 3-1 lead, as they were gifted a run because of an error. Slowey was replaced by Nick Hagadone, who worked a scoreless eighth inning. Jeremy Accardo came on for the save in what would be an eventful ninth. After walking the first hitter, another reached by way of a Chisenhall throwing error. Accardo struck out the next Bat, and was assisted by catcher Matt Pagnozzi with a snap throw pickoff at first for out number two. In that same at-bat, Accardo struck out the hitter on what was ultimately a wild pitch, extending the game. Louisville cut the lead to  one with a base hit, also putting the tying run into scoring position. Accardo was able to record out number four and his first save before any more damage was done.

Saturday (won, 6-4): For the first time in the series, the Clippers managed to score first, and they did it in a big way. A five-run second inning was capped off by a three-run Matt LaPorta blast, giving starter Corey Kluber plenty of room for error. He wouldn't need it. In the process of Kluber's five scoreless innings, the Clips added another run, thanks to Luke Carlin's solo job in the fourth. Kluber was only able to go five innings because his pitch count was elevated by three walks and 10 strikeouts. The Bats were glad to see him go, as they finally scratched against Hector Ambriz in the sixth. They added two more in the eighth, this time with Robinson Tejeda on the bump. Chris Ray came on in the ninth, and despite giving up another run to make it 6-4, earned the save. Trevor Crowe collected two knocks for the second consecutive game.

Sunday (won, 7-4): The Clippers sent Scott Barnes out as they went for the series win on Sunday, and he continued the trend of impressive starts. He did allow the first run of the game, however, as the Bats took a 1-0 lead in the second with registering a hit. Barnes pitched five scoreless, one-hit innings after that. With the help of Matt Pagnozzi and Gregorio Petit, Columbus responded with three in the bottom half. The score remained the same until the seventh, when Louisville pushed one across against Frank Herrmann. In the eighth, they took a 4-3 lead by knocking Chen Lee around in his second appearance of the series. The lead was short-lived. After loading the bases, hits from Ryan Spilborghs and Matt Pagnozzi and a walk to Trevor Crowe equalled four runs, giving the Clips a 7-4 lead. Jeremy Accardo pitched a clean ninth to pick up his second save. All nine Clippers in the starting lineup reached base, and only Crowe didn't have at least one hit.

Individual statistics

Lonnie Chisenhall: 5-for-15, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Trevor Crowe: 4-for-8, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB, 1 SB
Matt Pagnozzi: 3-for-5, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB

Kevin Slowey: 1 GS, 1-0, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R/ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Corey Kluber: 1 GS, 1-0, 5.o IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K
Scott Barnes: 1 GS, 0-0, 6.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R/ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Jeremy Accardo: 2 G, 2 saves, 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 BB, 3 K

Transactions

April 5: Hector Rondon placed on 7-day disabled list

For organizational and other baseball-related musings, follow Kevin on Twitter, @KevinIPI.

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