May 16, 2010

The ability to keep runners from crossing when the plate when you allow a lot of them is a rare skill. Indians legend Charles Nagy was noted for his ability to walk the proverbial tightrope even when he didn’t have his best stuff. A decade ago today, another Indian who enjoyed success in October pitched a Triple-A performance best described as Nagyesque.

On this cloudy 64-degree day in downtown Columbus, the Clippers shut out the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays) 5-0. This despite allowing ten hits to the North Carolinians. Eight of the hits were allowed by future star of the Progressive Field mound Josh Tomlin. Here’s how he kept any of them from scoring.

In the first inning, Tomlin allowed a two-out single to Bulls LF Justin Ruggiano, but threw him out trying to steal second to end the opening half-inning of the contest. He got himself into a bit of a jam in the second, with two runners on and only one out, but got out of it with a ground out and his first of two strikeouts of the day. The third frame started with a single, but was three-up, three-down the rest of the way. The fourth went similarly, albeit with a double play easing the path to a clean inning by providing the first two outs.

The top of the fifth seemed certain to be where the shutout would end. The Bulls had the bases loaded with RF Fernando Perez, already a veteran of 41 major league games with the Rays, at the plate representing the go-ahead run with only one out. Thankfully, Perez grounded an 0-1 pitch to short for an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Tomlin would allow a one-out double in the sixth for his eighth and final hit allowed on the day. His final stat line was as follows:

W (4-1), 6 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K

Current Astros sidearmer Joe Smith, Frank Herrmann, and SportsTime Ohio studio analyst Jensen Lewis each hurled a scoreless frame to complete the combined shutout. all four pitchers would take the mound for the Big Club at some point during the 2010 season.

On the offensive side, the five-run outburst was hardly unexpected given the stellar lineup they sent to the plate that afternoon:

LF Michael Brantley – 1,199 major league games for the Indians and Astros (active)
2B Jason Donald – 170 major league games, all for Cleveland
DH Carlos Santana – 1,435 major league games for the Indians and Phillies (active Indian)
RF Shelley Duncan – had already played 68 games for the Yankees at this point, went on to play, went on to 242 for the Indians and 20 for the Rays for 330 total
1B Wes Hodges – the only of 13 Clippers to take the field that day to not play in MLB, topped out in Triple-A playing 243 games, all for Columbus
3B Brian Buscher – was finishing his career in Columbus that summer (was within 25 days of his final professional game), but had played 164 games for the Minnesota Twins over the previous three seasons.
C Chris Gimenez – 386 major league games for the Indians, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Twins, and Cubs
SS Brian Bixler – 183 major league games for the Pirates, Nationals, and Astros (when they were in the National League)
CF Jose Costanza – 112 major league games, all for the Atlanta Braves

3,979 major league games (and counting) in one minor league lineup. Not bad.


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