OKLAHOMA CITy – Being on the road during the playoffs had been kind to the Rainiers.
But Tacoma’s luck ran out Tuesday night against Columbus in the Triple-A National Championship game.
The Clippers battered the Rainiers, 12-6, to take the title in front of 7,525 at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.
“They capitalized on our mistakes,” Rainiers manager Jose Castro said. “They didn’t miss a lot of them. Up and down the lineup, they had key hits.”
Columbus banged out 19 hits against five Tacoma pitchers as eight Clippers starters had multiple hits.
Only Wes Hodges was held hitless as the International League champions blew the game open after five innings.
A pair of players who spent most of the 2010 season at Double-A Akron did the most damage for Columbus.
Jared Head, who had been up and down between Akron and Columbus but wasn’t called up for the final time until the last few days of the season, capped a sizzling postseason by going 3-for-4 with four RBI in the finale.
Head finished 16-for-33 (.485) with 15 RBI in nine playoff games.
He was awarded the Bobby Murcer Most Valuable Player honor following the game.
“The ultimate goal every year is to get better, not worry about where you’re at or anything. Just keep getting better each and every day and everything will work out,” Head said. “From the get-go we started hitting and it carried over. Everybody came up with a big hit.”
Jason Kipnis’ experience in Triple-A was even more limited.
Kipnis wasn’t called up to the Clippers until Sept. 14.
He finished 3-for-4, scoring three times and putting Columbus on the board for the first time with a leadoff home run to start the second inning.
Despite the disappointment, Castro was still able to appreciate Tacoma’s Pacific Coast League championship team.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Anytime you win the PCL or any league you’re in, it’s a big deal. I’m glad the guys went through this experience.”
After Columbus took a 3-0 lead in the second, helped by Kipnis’ leadoff home run and Head’s RBI double, the Rainiers quickly pulled themselves back into it.
They tied the game in the third helped by David Winfree’s two-run home run.
But things quickly turned sour for the Rainiers. Columbus scored four runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth to blow the game open.
Tacoma scored three in the sixth off Columbus starter David Huff but couldn’t break through again against a string of Clippers relievers.
Winfree finished 3-for-4 to lead the Rainiers.
Tacoma starter Ryan Feirabend struggled with hitters but limited damage for a while. Feirabend picked off runners in each of the first three innings but couldn’t make it out of the fourth.