ALLENTOWN In a game that seemed much further out of reach than it ever was, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs fell to the Columbus Clippers 6-2 in game three of their International League Championship Series. The win gives the Clippers a 2-1 lead in games in the best-of-five series.
In the bottom of the first, Columbus starter Joe Martinez set the tone for the night, striking out the side. Martinez, not known as a strikeout pitcher, struck out a career-high 13 batters in the game, going seven innings.
Bush, who never seemed to get comfortable on the mound, retired the first two hitters in the second, but got into trouble after that when Juan Diaz doubled and Luke Carlin followed with a two-run homer to give Columbus an early 2-0 lead. Columbus then loaded the bases, but Bush worked out of the jam and avoided any further trouble.
As Martinez started to cruise, the IronPigs did throw a bit of a roadblock in his way in the bottom of the third when they manufactured a run. Freddy Galvis led off the inning by popping a bunt just over the mound for a base hit. Rich Thompson was hit by a pitch to put the first two runners on base and Scott Podsednik bunted both runners up a base. Kevin Frandsen punched a sacrifice fly to right field to cut the lead in half at 2-1.
"I've known Joey [Martinez] for a few years," said Kevin Frandsen. "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."
As uncomfortable as Bush appeared, he was able to toil his way through five innings without giving up any further runs to Columbus. Ryan Feierabend came on and threw three innings on relief, giving up just one run on a single to Chad Huffman in the seventh.
The Pigs pitching staff was also bolstered by big defensive plays. Galvis made a dazzling play behind the bag in the fifth and Thompson had a diving catch in left-center field during the eighth inning.
With the score 3-1 going to the bottom of the eighth, Chen-Chang Lee came on in relief. Thompson drew a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third on catcher Luke Carlin's throwing error. Podsednik grounded to short to drive in Thompson and again make it a one-run game.
Ryne Sandberg hoped to be able to get through the ninth with left-hander Juan Perez, who hadn't pitched since Aug. 30. Perez struck out Travis Buck to start the inning, but then gave up a double to Jared Goedert. After getting the second out, Perez issued two walks and ended his night leaving a bases-loaded mess for Chance Chapman. Chapman, who also had not pitched in nearly two weeks, walked three hitters to force in three runs. Mike Zagurski got the final out of the inning, but Columbus led 6-2.
"Unfortunately, things didn't work out well with our match-ups, considering that we've still got two games to play," said Sandberg. "I had confidence in the guys coming in to hold them down and still have our pitching set up solid for another couple of games."
Mike Sarbaugh, the IL's Manager of the Year, went to Cory Burns to pitch the ninth. Burns made his Triple-A debut on Tuesday and threw a perfect inning. He equaled that performance Thursday when he retired all three hitters he faced.
Domonic Brown was 0-for-3 on the night, but did draw a walk in the eighth to put the tying run on second base. Brown's post-season numbers dropped to 1-for-18 (.056).
"I make the lineups up to win a game," said Sandberg when asked if he would keep Brown in the lineup. "I make up the lineups the day of the game, it's the first thing I do. I have a cup of coffee and make my lineup."
Sandberg is content with the fact that he has two of his hottest starters set to go in games four and five. Lefty Ryan Edell (5-5, 3.27) will start for LV on Friday, with Brian Bass (8-10, 3.81) set to go in game five, if necessary, on Saturday.
"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.
Edell will be opposed by Paolo Espino (2-1, 3.43) and Bass will go up against Corey Kluber (7-11, 5.56).