An 8-0 first-inning lead in Huntington Park sometimes feels as safe as getting a cheetah to count to 10 before the chase begins.
The Clippers had that kind of quick start against the Toledo Mud Hens last night in Huntington Park. They sent 13 batters to the plate while building an early linescore that read three walks, six hits and the eight runs.
With a postseason spot on the line, however, the chase had just begun. The Mud Hens closed to within 8-5 in the fourth inning before the Clippers pulled away to an 11-6 win in front of a crowd of 9,314.
“They kept swinging the bat,” Clippers manager Chris Tremie said of the Mud Hens. “And every time we’ve played them, they’ve been like that. They’re going to get their at-bats.”
The victory extended the Clippers’ lead in the International League West to seven games over second-place Indianapolis and Louisville with 14 games to play. Indy lost to visiting Louisville 7-2 in 11 innings last night.
Tyler Holt rejoined an already dangerous Clippers lineup for the first time after spending a week with the parent Cleveland Indians. He led off the first inning with a single and scored ahead of a three-run home run by Giovanny Urshela.
“It’s hard to beat this lineup,” Holt said. “If one guy is not on, then the next guy is. So I feel like there’s no easy out for us, and that’s going to carry all through the playoffs. I feel like we’re all ready to hit.”
The Clippers did most of their damage against Toledo starter Buck Farmer (0-1), who was making his triple-A debut.
After the Urshela home run, Farmer walked James Ramsey and Matt Carson singled. Carlos Moncrief followed with an RBI single, and Elliot Johnson walked.
Luke Carlin’s two-run single chased Farmer, but the rally continued. An error by third baseman Wade Gaynor allowed Johnson to score, and Francisco Lindor capped the inning with an RBI single.
The Mud Hens made their run in the third and fourth innings against Gabriel Arias. Tyler Collins homered in the third, and Jordan Lennerton started a four-run rally in the fourth with a single. Three doubles later, Josh Outman (3-1) relieved Arias.
Outman had five strikeouts over 21/3 innings, and Bryan Price worked three perfect innings to get the save.
“I’m sure (Arias) was doing the best he could, but it wasn’t his night,” Tremie said. “Outman is available to give us length like that. And Price had such a low pitch count, he was able to go out for a third inning. It was huge. Them covering the rest of this game really saved our bullpen.”
Lennerton moved from first base to the mound for the final two innings. He got six outs in a row with what Holt described as “a knuckleball, a curveball and whatever he wanted.”