Clippers wrap up IL West Division crown
There was no dogpile, no excessive on-field show of emotion. Respectful on another team's home field, Columbus players simply shook hands and shared hugs. They acted like they've been there before, even though most had not.
The Clippers wrapped up their 14th International League West Division crown and their first postseason berth since 2011 with a 3-1 win at Toledo on Tuesday night.
"I think the guys here put in a lot of hard work all year," Columbus manager Chris Tremie said. "It's a byproduct of them working on being the best players they can be with balancing the importance of winning games."
Columbus has used a balanced approach to find success this season. The team ranks seventh in the 14-team circuit with a .262 batting average and sixth with a 3.76 ERA. The Clippers have scored 87 more runs than they've allowed, the best differential in the league. They also rank second in walks (504) and are tied for second in on-base percentage (.338).
Despite allowing more homers (130) than any other team, Columbus has issued only 386 walks in 137 games. At 2.8 walks per game, it's second behind Syracuse, which sits atop the North Division.
Jesus Aguilar has led the way offensively, while Tyler Cloyd has been equally impressive on the mound. Aguilar -- the Indians' No. 10 prospect -- ranks second in the league with a .394 on-base percentage, fourth with 73 RBIs and eighth with a .302 batting average. Cloyd has spun three complete games and a league-leading two shutouts, including a no-hitter on July 30 against Louisville. He's logged an IL-best 166 2/3 innings while walking 1.6 batters per nine innings.
"They have been huge for us," Tremie said. "Jesus has hit third or fourth in our lineup and played first base and he has been a key part of the offensive production. And Tyler Cloyd has done a great job in a starting pitcher role and given us innings. He's kept us in ballgames and given the team a chance to win."
It's the first playoff appearance for the Clippers since 2011, when they swept Durham in the first round and defeated Lehigh Valley in four games to win a second straight Governors' Cup. In 2010, Jason Kipnis hit for the cycle to help ends Columbus' 14-year championship drought.
The Clippers will face Durham again in the opening round of the playoffs, beginning Sept. 3. With bigger games still to come, Tremie said his team didn't want to celebrate too much.
"We were very happy and pleased that we won the division, but we still have six games to play in the season. We are looking forward to the playoffs and we still have things to take care of," he said. "I thanked them for their effort and hard work and for being good teammates and playing for each other, but we still have some things to do."
Potomac 3, Wilmington 1
The Nationals took care of business on the road and were crowned North Division second-half champions later Tuesday evening when Lynchburg fell to Carolina, 4-3. Isaac Ballou, Khayyan Norfork and John Wooten each had two hits for the P-Nats. Gameday box score
South Atlantic League
Asheville 5, Hagerstown 4
With a win over visiting Hagerstown, coupled with Savannah losing to Augusta, the Tourists sealed the South Division second-half title. Cesar Galvez set off the celebration with a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th inning. Asheville leads the league in batting average (.292), RBIs (687) and doubles (330) and shares the top spot with 119 homers. Gameday box score
Arkansas 5, Springfield 4
The Travelers wrapped up the North Division second-half crown with a late rally against the second-place Cardinals. Springfield took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but Arkansas batted around and plated four runs. Mike Bianucci delivered the big blow with a bases-loaded two-run double. Tyler DeLoach brought a one-hitter into the seventh for Arkansas, which leads the circuit with a 3.35 ERA and 41 saves while allowing a league-low 69 homers in 133 games. Gameday box score
Stockton 3, Bakersfield 2
After finishing second in the first half, the Ports edged the Blaze to seal the North Division second-half crown for the third time since becoming an A's affiliate in 2005. Chad Pinder was 2-for-3 with a double in the clincher, while Jonathan Joseph allowed an unearned run on four hits and a walk while striking out six over four innings. Pitching has been a strength all year for the Ports, who lead the league with a 4.13 ERA and 1,190 strikeouts. Box score
Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB.