Chen-Chang Lee struck out Brandon Moss to set off another celebration Friday as the Triple-A Clippers shut down the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, 4-1, in Game 4 to capture their second straight Governors' Cup.
Paolo Espino (1-0) turned in seven strong innings and Lee recorded the final six outs to give Columbus the ninth Governors' Cup championship in team history before a standing-room-only crowd at Coca-Cola Park. It's the first time the Indians' top affiliate has repeated as International League champion since 1991-92.
Espino held the IronPigs to one run, a leadoff homer by Moss in the seventh, and allowed four hits to earn the win. Lee, who pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, was dominant in picking up his first playoff save, striking out four over the final two innings.
Espino, a 24-year-old right-hander, made only five regular-season starts for the Clippers after being promoted from Double-A Akron, where he worked primarily out of the bullpen. The former 10th-round pick threw 59 of 89 pitches for strikes and faced only four batters over the minimum.
"I was mentally prepared. I had a lot of time [to get ready]," Espino said. "I was watching that team for all three games before today. "Some of the older guys, they were telling me a little bit about the hitters. I was just trusting them, getting some advice from them."
International League Manager of the Year Mike Sarbaugh called on Lee, who filled in for Zach Putnam after the Clippers closer was promoted to Cleveland last week. The Taiwanese right-hander fanned two in the eighth, struck out Scott Podsednik and got Kevin Frandsen to ground out before whiffing Moss for the final out. The Clippers raced to the mound, swarming Lee amid a pile of gray uniforms.
"Lee's a great pitcher," Espino said. "We both were in Akron most of the year. He's got a sneaky fastball that every hitter says it's hard to see coming out of his hand. I knew he was going to do a great job and we had a good shot of winning this."
Columbus will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., to take on Omaha for the Triple-A National Championship on Tuesday. The game will be televised live on Versus.
It wasn't all sad news for Leigh Valley. Not long after the final out, the Phillies announced that Domonic Brown, right-hander Justin DeFratus, catcher Erik Kratz, lefty Joe Savery and Moss had all been promoted to Philadelphia.
DeFratus pitched the eighth and loaded the bases before throwing a wild pitch that produced the Clippers' final run. That, however, was old news after the game.
"This is the best day of my life," DeFratus Tweeted. "Just got called up to the Major Leagues."
According to MLB.com, IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg will join the Phillies' Major League coaching staff for the remainder of the season. Sandberg took over in Lehigh Valley this spring and guided the team to its first winning record and first postseason appearance.
Sarbaugh and the Clippers swept Durham in the first round before taking three straight from Lehigh Valley following a Game 1 loss. For Sarbaugh, it's the fifth championship he's won as a Minor League coach or manager. He also claimed a Carolina League crown as a player for Kinston in 1994.
"You go into each year and your goal is to develop players and try to win some ballgames along the way," Sarbaugh said. "This year, we were fortunate to do that, to be champions always makes the year worthwhile."
Columbus took the lead in the second on an RBI single by Juan Diaz and a run-scoring double by Paul Phillips. Jared Goedert made it 3-0 an inning later, connecting off Ryan Edell for his first playoff homer.
"It helps a lot," Espino said of the early lead. "You pitch more relaxed, there's less tension. You have a couple runs, you can work ahead early in the count, throw it right [in] there, see if they can get outs by themselves. In a tie game, you can't do that."
Edell did not walk a batter but threw 95 pitches and was lifted after five innings. He was charged with three runs on six hits while striking out five.
Moss breathed some life into the IronPigs in the seventh with a long leadoff homer, his fourth of the playoffs.
Dickie Noles, a special consultant for the Phillies, was in attendance a night after Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. watched from the seats at Coca-Cola Park.