There is a distinct advantage that comes from Louisville outfielder Denis Phipps being a veteran of nine Minor League seasons. Phipps has seen more of baseball than most of his teammates. On Sunday afternoon, he saw something else: Columbus starter Jeanmar Gomez, 24 and three years his junior, tipping off his pitches.
Phipps took advantage of his smarts -- and, yeah, his right-handed swing -- to homer twice and collect a season-high six RBIs in the Triple-A Bats' 9-8 victory over the visiting Clippers.
"On the first [homer], [Gomez] did something when he threw his fastball," Phipps said. "He was opening his glove when he was going to throw a changeup, but his glove was closed when he was throwing a fastball."
The tip-off paid immediate dividends. Batting sixth, the veteran outfielder smacked a two-RBI single in the first and walked in the third before stroking a three-run homer toward right field off Gomez. He would lift his second longball toward left two innings later while facing reliever Loek Van Mil.
"I got that [first] one better than the last one," said Phipps, who hit Gomez's cut fastball, then Van Mil's sinker. "I didn't think it was going to get out. This is a big park. It got to the second or third row maybe."
Waiting on his pitch -- in addition to knowing which one was coming -- was the key: Phipps saw 23 in his four plate appearances.
"I was trying to be patient [because] they were trying to throw a lot of breaking balls," said Phipps, who also recorded an assist in right field. "So I told myself, 'I am going to be patient.'"
In a season that was stunted by a joint issue in his right shoulder -- he missed half of May and most of June rehabbing in Arizona -- Phipps now has six hits in nine at-bats (three of them homers) and eight RBIs in the first two games of the series opposing the Clippers.
"I have been seeing the ball better the last two days," said Phipps, whose Bats play half of their remaining 14 games against the Clips. "I have just been working with my hitting coach to be more patient at the plate."
A veteran of nine Minor League seasons -- seven stateside -- Phipps was signed out of his native Dominican Republic on May 3, 2004. His last two-homer game occurred on May 16, 2009 for the now-defunct Class A Advanced Sarasota Reds. He drove in that many runs only once before, in a July 5, 2007 game at Class A Dayton. It was five years ago, sure, so what does he remember most about it? The fact that the Dragons won, 20-3.
"Every time we win, it's fun," he said.
Gomez (6-4) yielded eight runs on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings. He walked five.
Bats counterpart Sean Gallagher (10-9) was charged with four runs on five hits -- including Russ Canzler's 20th homer, a two-run shot in the third -- over five frames.