COLUMBUS – It was a matchup between two ball clubs that weren’t at the top of their game, but sometimes it’s a matter of making just one less mistake than the other team.
That was certainly the case on Sunday, as the Columbus Clippers (30-33) came back to beat the Charlotte Knights (37-28) by a final score of 5-4 after trailing 4-0. It is Columbus’ third straight win.
The Knights got their first run in the top of the first inning, thanks to three consecutive singles by designated hitter Tyler Kuhn, third baseman Dan Johnson and first baseman Hector Gimenez.
The Knights would increase their lead in the third inning. With two outs and runners on second and third, Gimenez fought back from an 0-2 count and eventually lined a 2 RBI single into left that give Charlotte a 3-0 lead. Gimenez himself would come home and make it 4-0 thanks to catcher Josh Phegley’s long double into left center field.
The Clippers would strike back in the bottom of the third. Thanks to a double by catcher Luke Carlin and a two walks, Columbus loaded the bases with nobody out. An infield single by center fielder Ezequiel Carrera brought in a run to make it 4-1. Second baseman Cord Phelps would then ground into a force out at second, but he would reach first base to avoid the double play while also getting an RBI to cut it to 4-2. An error by Charlotte’s Johnson would then allow another run to score, and after three innings the Knights led 4-3.
Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh believed that the Clippers’ ability to come right back after falling behind by four changed the dynamics of the game.
“I thought that was key,” Sarbaugh said. “(Charlotte) going up 4-0 scoring three that inning and then us coming right back with three. Fortunately for us, we were able to take advantage of some mistakes and score three runs.”
Columbus came all the way back to tie the game in the fifth, as shortstop Jason Donald grounded into a double play but was still able to bring in Carrera from third. Entering the sixth inning, the Clippers had made it a whole new ballgame.
For a while in the top of the sixth, it seemed like Columbus’ comeback would be short-lived, as Charlotte was able to get runners on second and third with just one out. However, Clippers reliever Dan Wheeler was able to force an infield pop-up and a groundout to end the inning with the bases loaded and no damage done.
For Sarbaugh, this was the most important sequence of the game.
“The difference was Wheeler coming in during the sixth,” he said. “It was a tough spot.”
Neither starter was able to stick around deep into the game. Columbus left-hander David Huff (3-2, 3.74 ERA) went 5.1 innings and gave up four earned runs on eight hits, while Charlotte right-hander Matt Zaleski (2-2, 5.36 ERA) went only four innings and gave up three runs on as many hits. Zaleski also walked four batters.
The Clippers finally took their first lead of the game in the eighth inning, and the rally began when Donald launched a ball the other way and got a double off the top of the right field wall. After a walk was issued to right fielder Jared Goedert, Columbus seemed to be in prime position. Two straight strikeouts made things interesting, but first baseman Russ Canzler came through with an RBI single to left field that gave Columbus a 5-4 lead.
This one-run lead proved to be enough, as Columbus right-hander Chris Ray came out in the ninth and pitched a perfect inning to end the game. It was Ray’s eleventh save of the year.
The Clippers will continue their four game series against Charlotte on Monday at 7:05 p.m.