Columbus pounds out 12-8 win
COLUMBUS - Timely hitting and a few errant throws propelled the Columbus Clippers to their second win in a row Thursday night.
The Clippers (15-12) topped the Gwinnett Braves, 12-8, in front of 7,708 fans at Huntington Park.
Gwinnett made four errors—three of which were throwing—and Columbus went 8-for-13 with runners in scoring position on way to victory.
After being led by cleanup hitter Matt LaPorta for a lot of the past week—hitting .485 with five home runs and 13 RBIs in his last 10 games—it was the bottom of the batting order that paved the way for most of Columbus’ offensive production Thursday.
Trailing, 2-0, Clippers’ third baseman Andy Laroche and catcher Luke Carlin both reached to start the bottom of the third inning. A double down the left-field line by shortstop Gregorio Petit, the Clippers’ No.9 hitter, plated Laroche, and a single by center fielder Ezequiel Carrera brought in two more.
In all, the Clippers No.6-No.9 hitters went 8-for-17, driving in five runs and crossing the plate seven times themselves. Each of those hitters—designated hitter Chad Huffman, Laroche, Carlin and Petit—had an RBI and Petit had two doubles.
Clippers’ manager Mike Sarbaugh said that while getting production from the back end of the batting order was key, but it wasn’t the whole story.
“I think any time you get production out of the bottom of your lineup, that only just adds to it,” he said. “When you have guys like Carrera, Phelps, LaPorta and those guys, the way they swing the bat, it’s just a team effort.”
Wild throws by starter, left-hander Yohan Flande, cost the Braves in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With runners on first-and-second base, Carrera bunted down the third-base line, and Flande’s throw to first base went wide, allowing both runners on to score. Attempting to pick off Carrera, who reached second base on the errant throw, Flande threw the ball into center field, and Carrera got to third base. Two batters later, Carrera scored on a sacrifice fly to center field.
The damage in the fifth was far from done at that point, though.
Columbus added one more run off Flande, and two off Gwinnett right-hander Adam Russell, who came in with one out in the inning, as the Clippers went up, 9-2.
That inning, Sarbaugh said, was one of the best the Clippers have had in a while.
“I thought the fifth inning was huge,” he said. “To get that big lead, and to do it, I thought we ran the bases well—we made one mistake on the bases—but overall I thought it was a really good inning for us.”
The long ball kept the Braves within striking distance for most of the game.
Gwinnett hit back-to-back shots off Clippers’ starter, right-hander Kevin Slowey, in the top of the second inning, and blasted a three-run homer in the top of the sixth inning. Consecutive doubles, also in the sixth, pulled the Braves within three runs, and ended Slowey’s night.
Harbaugh said that the Clippers long fifth inning at the plate—10 batters reached the plate—might have hurt Slowey’s showing in the sixth inning.
“I think that long fifth inning kind of caught up to him. He sat a long time and just didn’t look the same when he went back out,” he said.
Columbus poured in three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and three innings of relief from right-hander Frank Hermann, left-hander Scott Barnes, and right-hander Chris Ray, secured the victory.
The finale of a four-game series between the two clubs will be played at 6:35 p.m. on Friday. Columbus won two of the first three contests.