Photo credit: TCP Photography/Courtesy Lake County Captains

Columbus Clippers 9, St. Paul Saints 8

In game one of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon, the Clippers’ offense shined as the pitching struggled and the defense committed four errors in a seven-inning game. Juan Hillman got his first Triple-A start and unfortunately struggled through 2.1 innings before leaving in the middle of the third inning with an injury. The bullpen came on in relief and did everything it could to lose this game behind sloppy defense. But the offense would not quit, and the Clippers walked off with a win on Bryan Lavastida’s three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh. The offense came from five runs down in the final frame, as shortstop Gabriel Arias doubled in two RBI before Lavastida worked his game winning magic. All in all, it was a promising performance for an offense that consisted of six players who were not with Columbus at the beginning of the season. As for the pitching and defense, it was a long game.

Before leaving the game, Hillman looked a bit overmatched against the Saints. It was Hillman’s first Triple-A start of his career, and the Saints’ lineup seemed to have little trouble catching up to his 88-90 mph fastball and off speed pitches. Hillman gave up five hits, three earned runs, walked two and struck out two over his two and a third innings. He left in the third inning with what may have been hand injury. Hopefully it is not serious and he can settle in at Triple-A over the final month of the season.

Offense would not quit all game long

The offense played from behind for much of the game, as Hillman gave up all three runs in the first inning. But Arias, who had two doubles and four RBI in the game, got two runs back in the bottom of the first with a two-RBI double. On the day, Arias went 2-3 with a walk, and now has 22 doubles on the season.

In the bottom of the second, Andruw Monasterio doubled to center field to start the inning. He was then caught in a rundown by Saints’ pitcher Garcia when Tyler Krieger hit a comebacker to the pitcher. After Connor Marabell reached on a fielder’s choice, left fielder Steven Kwan hit a two-run homer just over the left-center field wall to put the Clippers up 4-3. Kwan went 2-3 on the day with the homer, a single, two walks and two RBI. He is showing a good eye at the plate and an ability to work deep counts since arriving from Double-A on August 31.

Late inning heroics by Arias and Lavastida

The Clippers came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth down 8-4. After walks by Connor Marabell and Kwan, Arias stroked a double down the right field line to close the gap to 8-6. After a Richie Palacios walk, Lavastida came to the plate. He belted a three-run home run to win the game on a walk-off for the Clippers. It was a show of strength for the Clippers’ offense, who overcame a tough day on the mound and in the field to hang on for the win.

Sloppy defense across the diamond, and a few web gems too

Arias, who had a great game all around, made an excellent play in top of second to take a hit away from Caleb Hamilton. Hamilton hit a hard ground ball to the left of Arias and Arias caught it on the one hop. He fired the ball to first baseman Connor Marabell in plenty of time to get Hamilton.

In the top of the fifth, Arias went to his right and picked a ground ball that went under the glove of third baseman Monasterio, who was charged with an error. Arias turned and fired to first and missed hitter BJ Boyd by just a step. Even though he did not record the out, Arias showed off his range and arm on this play.

Before committing the error in the fifth, Monasterio made a nice play on a hard ground ball hit by Damek Tomscha in the top of the third. He caught Gilberto Celestino too far off of third base and made a heads up throw home home to Lavastida, who tagged out Celestino in a rundown. Monasterio also went 2-3 at the plate on Sunday afternoon.

Right fielder Oscar Gonzalez made a heck of a play in right field. He ran down a fly ball to the warning track between right and center field, taking extra bases away from Saints’ second baseman Drew Maggi. Then, in the top of the fifth, JT Riddle hit a single to right field that dropped right in front of an oncoming Gonzalez. Gonzalez failed to get his glove down and stop the ball and the ball went passed him, scoring a run on the play to make it 6-4.

Lavastida performed heroics at the plate, but had a tough day behind it. The Saints stole three bases on Lavastida, who is still adjusting to the Clippers’ pitching staff with his recent call-up from Akron. In the third, Gilberto Celestino stole second and advanced to third on Lavastida’s throwing error. Later in the game, Jimmy Kerrigan got a great jump and stole second and Lavastida did not attempt a throw. In the seventh inning, Boyd stole second and Lavastida’s throw was so far left of the bag that second baseman Tyler Krieger did not have a chance to stop the throw from going into the outfield as Boyd took third.

The Clippers had four errors on the day and looked asleep in the field at times. A credit to their “never say die” offense, this was not enough to stop the Clippers’ offense from winning the game in walk-off fashion.

Bullpen woes continue

Cam Hill came on in the third to relieve Hillman after he exited with one out. Hill did not pitch well, he gave up four hits and two earned runs over 1.2 innings pitched. Once a rising arm in Cleveland’s system, Hill has not been able to string together many good outings this season. Today was a bad one, as Saints hitters seemed to have his number over a seemingly endless inning and a third.

Kevin Herget came on in the fifth in relief of Hill. The 30-year old righty fell victim to the errors by Monasterio and Gonzalez in that same inning, but stayed focused and limited baserunners by notching three strikeouts. Herget got out of the inning with no damage done to the score. In the sixth, Herget gave up a leadoff triple to Telis, and then a RBI double to Kerrigan to make the score 7-4. Herget did have four strikeouts and no walks in 2.0 innings pitched and hit 95 mph with his fastball.

Juan Mota came on in the seventh and gave up an infield single to Boyd. Boyd then stole second and advanced to third on Lavastida’s second throwing error of the game. He scored a batter on Hamilton’s single to right field.

The pitching staff in this one made it a slog of a game, as it lasted over three hours even though it was only seven innings long. The Indians’ bullpen is a mess right now, and there is no cavalry to come from Columbus to help save the day. Except for possibly Mota and his 97-98 mph fastball, there does not appear to be a major league-caliber arm in Columbus’ bullpen right now. It will be interesting to see how many of these relievers are a part of Cleveland’s organization at the start of next season.

The Clippers went on to drop Game 2 of the double header 1-0 on Sunday evening. Robert Broom took the loss in the bullpen game, as he gave up the only run scored in 2.2 innings pitched.


Juan Hillman – 58 pitches, 31 strikes

1st: 81, 90, 88, 88, 89, 82, 80, 80, 89, 88, 86, 90, 80, 85, 87, 83, 82, 82

2nd: 87, 81, 84, 81, 81, 88, 88, 83, 89, 83, 88, 88, 88, 81, 79, 80

3rd: 86, 88, 88, 88, 86, 87, 88, 84, 80, 81, 83, 77, 78, 86, 82

Cam Hill – 28 pitches, 18 strikes

3rd: 83, 83, 92, 73, 84, 90, 83

4th: 91, 83, 82, 75, 81, 82, 90, 90, 82, 78, 76

Kevin Herget – 35 pitches, 27 strikes

5th: 87, 85, 93, 93, 84, 77, 86, 84, 93, 93, 93, 94, 94, 93, 95

6th: 91, 92, 93, 86, 88, 89, 87, 93, 92, 93, 95, 94, 95

Juan Mota – 18 pitches, 14 strikes

7th: 98, 98, 97, 97, 89, 87, 89, 98, 98, 98, 92, 87, 97, 97, 86, 89

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