Braves spear Clippers 9-2
Matsuzaka does well in return before bullpen crumbles in tough loss
Pitching in his first game since sustaining a left oblique injury in a game back on April 28, right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka tossed a scoreless 2 2/3 innings against the Gwinnett Braves Tuesday.
After throwing 41 pitches (he was limited to 50), Matsuzaka exited the game and everything went downhill from there.
Reliever Paolo Espino, Cole Cook and Bryan Price combined to surrender nine runs on 11 hits en route to a 9-2 beat down by the Braves.
Despite collecting 12 hits in the contest, four off the bat of third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, the Clippers' offense failed to take advantage with runners in scoring position. On the day, Columbus was 1-for-9 in that category and stranded a total of 11 runners on base.
The game remained in a 0-0 deadlock until Gwinnett erupted for all nine of their runs in three consecutive innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, shortstop Paul Janish laced a two-out RBI single to left field off of Espino to put the Braves on the board. In the following inning, center fielder Todd Cunningham walked and second baseman Tyler Pastornicky singled on a groundball to center to put runners on first and second. With first baseman Ernesto Mejia batting, catcher Chris Wallace attempted a pick-off at first but the throw was wild and allowed Cunningham to score to make it 2-0.
Cook entered the game in the bottom of the sixth and was shelled for six runs on five hits.
Designated hitter Brandon Boggs was issued a free pass to lead off the inning and third baseman Joe Leonard and Janish followed with back-to-back base hits to load the bases. Catcher Jose Yepez lofted a sacrifice fly to right field for a run, left fielder Jose Constanza hit an RBI laser to right and Cunningham lashed another single to right for another run.
After pitching coach Tony Arnold visited the mound to calm down cook, the reliever threw a wild pitch to advance Cunningham to second. Pastornicky struckout in the next at-bat but then Mujia smacked a two-out, two-run base hit to left to increase Gwinnett's advantage to 7-0.
Price then replaced Cook and gave up a two-run home run to right fielder Joey Terdoslavich to put the Clippers in a gaping 9-0 hole.
Columbus earned some dignity back with a run each in the seventh and ninth innings. Second baseman Nate Spears launched his first homer of the year, a solo shot to right in the top of the seventh and Chisenhall scorched an RBI double to center to give his team their second and last run.
Gwinnett starter Omar Povedo (5-3, 3.01 ERA) earned the win after a strong outing where he pitched six scoreless innings while giving up just five hits and striking out seven. Espino (0-3, 5.91) was saddled with the loss for Columbus despite allowing one earned run (two total) in 2 1/3 innings of work.
The Clippers fell to 32-34 with the defeat and the Braves improved to 28-39.
After on off-day Wednesday, Columbus will regroup and travel to Charlotte to take on the Knights (26-38) in a four-game series starting on Thursday. Left-hander T.J. House (1-5, 5.91 ERA) is set to take the hill for the Clippers in game one. Charlotte's starter is still to be determined. The first pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.