A bit of bad luck and sloppy fielding spelled doom for the Columbus Clippers on Thursday afternoon.
Columbus fell to the Charlotte Knights, 10-7, in the finale of a four-game series at Huntington Park.
In a game that appeared as though it may be a pitcher’s duel, the Knights led, 1-0, at the start of the fifth inning. Both starting pitchers, Columbus right-hander Joe Martinez and Charlotte right-hander Gaby Hernandez, each were putting up outstanding performances.
It was at that point that misfortune found the Clippers.
On the first pitch of the inning, Martinez was hit in the right wrist by a line drive off the bat of Charlotte second baseman Ozzie Chavez. Martinez was removed from the game after being evaluated by manager Mike Sarbaugh and pitching coach Ruben Niebla.
Sarbaugh said after the game that it was his decision to take out Martinez but that he did not think the injury would be that serious.
“Our trainer checked him out and everything seemed to be good,” Sarbaugh said. “He will probably have a pretty good bruise.”
Martinez finished with two runs allowed on five hits, with four strikeouts and one walk over four-plus innings of work.
After his departure, the wheels fell off for the Clippers.
With left-hander Eric Berger on in relief, the Knights scored seven runs on five hits to extend their lead to 8-0. The inning featured three Columbus errors, along with three walks and a wild pitch by Berger.
The Clippers responded with two runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings, including a two-run homer by left fielder Josh Rodriguez and a solo shot by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
After Charlotte tallied a run in the seventh, Columbus scored two runs in the eighth on doubles by shortstop Luis Valbuena and first baseman Wes Hodges to make the score 9-6.
That’s when another Columbus player was forced to take an early shower. This time, it was not because of injury.
Batting with runners at first and second and two out, Clippers center fielder Ezequiel Carrera took a called first pitch strike on the outside corner. Visibly upset by the call, Carrera took a long time before settling in for the next pitch. When that pitch was another called strike, this time on the inside corner, he turned to speak with home plate umpire Gerard Ascani. Carrera was ejected within moments.
Players and coaches are not allowed to argue balls and strikes.
Travis Buck, replacing Carrera, with the 0-2 count, lined the first pitch he saw into center to score Hodges and cut the deficit to 9-7.
Trailing by three in the bottom of the ninth, the Clippers were able to get the tying run to the plate, but could not get another clutch hit to prolong the game.
Despite the loss, Sarbaugh said he was proud of the way the team fought back.
“We really chipped away at the lead and kept at it,” he said. “To have the tying run come up in the ninth, that says something about our club. There’s no quit in them.”
Next, Columbus travels to Indianapolis for a four-game series against the Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate) starting at 7:15 p.m. Friday.