Columbus splits a pair on Wednesday
COLUMBUS - An unusual night of baseball at Huntington Park in Columbus Wednesday resulted in the Clippers and Gwinnett Braves splitting two games.
Columbus (14-12) beat the Braves, 3-2, in a seven-inning contest after the two clubs finished a game that was postponed due to rain on Tuesday. Gwinnett won the early game, which started in the top of the fourth inning Wednesday, 7-4.
The late game ended on a line-drive double play with the Braves trailing by one and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning.
Right-hander Jeremy Accardo replaced right-hander Cody Allen in the top of the seventh inning with runners on first-and-third base with one out. Accardo walked the first batter he faced, and then got Braves’ designated hitter Stefan Gartrell to line-out to second base. Gwinnett right fielder Jordan Parraz came too far off first base on the play, and was doubled off by Clippers’ second baseman Cord Phelps.
Columbus manager Mike Sarbaugh said he brought Accardo in to try to get a game-ending groundball double play, but he was satisfied with the end result.
“We felt good about bringing Jeremy in there. Hopefully you get a groundball with his ability to get the ball down in the zone,” he said. “Little unconventional way to end the game, but we’ll take it.”
The Clippers got out to a fast start in the second game, scoring two runs on groundballs to the left side of the infield in the bottom of the first inning.
Center fielder Ezequiel Carrera scored on a muffed chopper to third base by left fielder Matt LaPorta. Phelps, who reached on a single to left field, scored on a fielder’s choice to shortstop by first baseman Russ Canzler.
Sarbaugh said that scoring two runs in their first at-bat of the second game gave the team some confidence coming off a loss 30 minutes earlier.
“It did give us a bit of momentum,” he said. “To get two in the first was big for us, especially to give us a little momentum and an early lead.”
The Braves threatened to get on the scoreboard in the game’s early innings, but right-hander Zach McAllister (3-1) escaped both times.
Gwinnett had a runner in scoring position with two outs in the first inning, and with no outs in the top of the third inning, but a strikeout and a groundout to shortstop, respectively, ended the threats.
A Laporta single to left field brought in another run for Columbus in the top of the third inning, but the Clippers had a chance for much more. With the bases loaded and only one out, designated hitter Beau Mills popped out to shortstop, and third baseman Andy Laroche struck out.
LaPorta, who homered in the early game, his ninth of the season, has been on a tear lately. He has hit four home runs in the Clippers’ last four games, and is batting .500 in the team’s last seven games.
Sarbaugh said he believes part of the reason LaPorta has been hitting so well is a better approach at the plate.
“The one thing I really like lately is, (LaPorta) has been doing a much better job of laying off pitches out of the zone. Which, early in the season, he wasn’t doing,” he said.
Along with LaPorta, McAllister also impressed Wednesday.
The only run McAllister gave up came in the top of the fourth inning, Gartrell smoked a fastball over the bleachers in left field for a home run.
McAllister finished the game with one earned run in five innings while striking out six Braves.
Sarbaugh said McAllister had a strong outing, but a high pitch count (86) forced him to leave after five frames.
Clippers’ right-hander Cody Allen replaced McAllister in the top of the sixth inning. For the first time in weeks, Allen, who has sped through the Indians’ farm system in a month’s time, struggled on the mound.
Allen got threw a scoreless sixth inning, but a leadoff double in the top of the seventh inning by Braves’ shortstop Josh Wilson proved to be trouble. Allen got Gwinnett’s next batter to pop out to first base, but an error by Clippers’ shortstop Gregorio Petit and a single by Braves’ first baseman Drew Sutton forced Sarbaugh to take Allen out.
Accardo, replacing Allen, recorded his fourth save of the season.
Columbus and Gwinnett will play again on Thursday at 6:35 p.m.