Even though Huntington Park sold out for the 15th time, the 10,000+ fans that packed bleachers had little to cheer about coming into tonight's game. The Clippers had lost the last seven games in a row, which hadn't happened since August of '08. A few nights before, the Durham Bulls had completed a sweep of the Clippers. To make it worse, the night before, the Toledo Mud Hens had routed the Clippers in the start of their 5-game series, 12-4, which let them jump the Clippers for 3rd place in the International League. Statistically, it was a bad time to be a Clippers fan.
But, leading up to tonight's game, fans learned some news that pumped them up. Andy Marte, the powerful third baseman, had been awarded Player of the Week status by the IL. Then, Marte, along with first baseman Jordan Brown, and catcher Wyatt Toregas were all named to the IL All Star team. As if that were not enough, right before the game, local soldiers-to-be were sworn into the US Army, and two current soldiers threw out the opening pitches. Finally, there was some good news, and some inspiration, for Clippers fans.
Toledo's Brent Dlugach watches a third strike come in as RHP Brian Grening strikes out his 3rd batter in the 1st inning. Credit: Robert M. Barga
Brian Grening, who Columbus had just acquired from Mahoning Valley, made sure to keep the fans happy. In the first inning, three Mud Hens walked up to the plate, and three were sent down swinging. In the second, even though he walked two people, Grening struck out two more. Midway through the third, when the Mud Hens were starting to get his number, the Clippers switched him out. Grening walked out to a standing ovation; after all, in two innings of work he allowed only one hit, struck out five batters, and walked two.
As if that were not enough, the entire bottom of the first for the Clippers was absolutely stunning. First, Michael Brantley hit a single, then stole second. Three batters latter, Matt LaPorta hit his 10th home run of the year, which also happened to be a grand slam! Man, the fans were jumping. A few more Clippers get on base, and then Brantley steps up again. He nails a double to deep center, allowing two runs to score. At the end of the first, Brantley scored twice, and Trevor Crowe, Brown, LaPorta, Tony Graffanino, Marte, and Josh Barfield rounded the bases. It is pretty much over when the score is 8-0 at the end of just one inning.
Matt LaPorta lets loose on his grand slam. Credit: Robert M. Barga
While that seemed as though it was enough, the Clippers were far from over. LaPorta scored again in the second and Brown in the third. After the third, there was a small two inning drought, and it seemed as though the massacre had ended – it hadn't. In the sixth, Marte hit a home run, and Barfied also scored. Then, in the seventh, Crowe scored for the second time, and Graffanino hit a home run, sending LaPorta and Brown home for the third time each.
It was 16-0 at the end of seven and I started wondering why there was no mercy rule in minor league baseball. Alas, there isn't, but the Clippers didn't need one anyways. Even though the Mud Hens were able to score three runs off of an error, the Clippers wrapped it up with a quick three-out 9th inning.
While I enjoyed most of the game, two things really stuck out and annoyed me. For starters, the umpire was somewhat anal about distractions. He often was calling time, simply because two of the advertisements on the scoreboard were moving at the same time. Sure, I understood the timeout when the scoreboard was playing a live feed (boy, did he look pissed), but there is no need for the delay when the advertisements are simply rotating.
The other thing that annoyed me was during the seventh-inning stretch. With the 4th of July coming up, we all sang 'God Bless America'. Now, the announcer asked everybody to stand up, but I didn't. See, you are not supposed to stand for any song but the national anthem. So, this group of college kids behind me (who were probably drunk) started yelling at me. My explanation of the proper honorifics meant nothing to them. The drunk guys made up for it, however, when they later asked me if I wrote for the New York Times, Washington Post, or Columbus Dispatch. They seemed more impressed when I said Blogcritics Magazine.
The Great Race
Today's great race was actually a competition. Mustard and Relish both sprinted out of the right-field wall, and Ketchup was only a few steps behind. At about first base, Relish added some juice to his engine, and took off. Mustard, desperate to stop him, attempted a tackle – it failed. For the first time ever, Relish won the race fair and square. This brings his record to 4, while Ketchup has 1 and Mustard still has none.
W: Jensen Lewis (1-0), 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO
L: Ruddy Lugo (6-7), .2 IP, 8 H,8 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO