Columbus Has 'Pigs Against The Wall

After winning their first four post-season games, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have now lost two straight and are staring at elimination. A strong outing by Columbus' Joe Martinez proved their undoing on Thursday in a 6-2 loss.

Perhaps the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were a victim of their own success Thursday night when they lost to Columbus 6-2 to fall down 2-1 in games in the best-of-five International League Championship Series. The fact that Lehigh Valley's starters and the back of their bullpen had pitched so well in the post-season, meant that Juan Perez and Chance Chapman hadn't pitched in quite a while.

"They hadn't pitched in a long time," said 'Pigs manager Ryne Sandberg, speaking of the struggles by Perez and Chapman. The two combined to walk five Clippers in a row in the top of the ninth, pushing across three Columbus runs that took a one-run game to a 6-2 game with just the bottom of the ninth remaining for an IronPigs comeback.

"We had confidence that they could just keep the score where it was, but it didn't work out that way," lamented Sandberg.

Dave Bush (0-1) started for Lehigh Valley and toiled through five innings, giving up two runs on eight hits. The veteran right-hander never seemed comfortable on the mound and also struggled with a varying strike zone by home plate umpire Fran Burke. Both teams were barking at Burke at various times throughout the night, but Sandberg declined to put any blame on the umpiring, preferring instead to give credit where credit was due; Columbus starter Joe Martinez (1-0).

"He pitched well, he threw a good game," said Sandberg of Martinez. "He had a good two-seam fastball and we couldn't hit him."

Martinez, not known as a high strikeout pitcher, struck out a career-high 13 hitters and worked seven innings for Columbus to get the win. Martinez was touched for just one run, which the ‘Pigs manufactured in the bottom of the third inning thanks to some small-ball type play. Freddy Galvis opened the inning with a bunt single that popped over the mound, allowing him to beat the throw to first. Rich Thompson was then hit by a pitch and both runners were advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Scott Podsednik. Kevin Frandsen the punched a sacrifice fly to right, bringing home Galvis and cutting the Columbus lead to 2-1.

Galvis and Thompson also contributed to keeping a run or two off the board with spectacular defensive plays. Both players robbed Tim Fedroff of base hits, Galvis with a sliding stop behind second base that he bounced up and threw to first to retire Fedroff. Thompson made a diving grab of a soft fly ball in the eighth that would have resulted in another hit for Fedroff.

The two runs against Bush came on a two-run home run by Luke Carlin in the second. Carlin took a Bush fastball out to right field as the Clippers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over the IronPigs. Bush pitched out of further trouble in the inning after the Clippers loaded the bases and he pitched out of the jam with no further damage.

Reliever Ryan Feierabend threw three strong innings in relief, giving up just one run on an infield single by Chad Huffman in the seventh. The only other run the IronPigs put together came courtesy of Thompson and his speed. In the eighth, Thompson led off with a walk and promptly stole second, with Carlin's throw sailing into center field. When the dust settled, Thompson was on third with nobody out. Podsednik then grounded a ball to short, allowing Thompson to score on the play and again cut the Columbus lead to one run, making the score 3-2.

In addition to Sandberg giving praise to Martinez, Frandsen, who came up with Martinez through the Giants organization, also had praise for the right-hander. "I've known Joey [Martinez] for a few years," said Kevin Frandsen, who came up through the Giants minor league system with Martinez. "I even texted him and told him that was the best I've ever seen him throw. You can't take anything away from him tonight."

The IronPigs are now facing elimination, but Sandberg feels his pitching staff is set up perfectly for their situation. "We have two of our hottest pitchers ready to go and a solid bullpen that's rested and ready. I like the way our pitching staff sits right now, we just need some offense," said Sandberg.

Lehigh Valley will throw lefty Ryan Edell (5-5, 3.27) will start for Lehigh Valley on Friday, with Brian Bass (8-10, 3.81) set to go in game five, if necessary, on Saturday. Edell got a no-decision against Pawtucket, while Bass got a complete game win over the PawSox in the series clinching game three of the International League Semifinals.



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