The Reds' Minor League Hitter of the Year last year, Phipps has had a rocky season this go-around, but he's been drilling the ball against the Clippers. The Bats' centerfielder was the centerpiece of two big innings Sunday in a 9-8 victory at Louisville Slugger Field and blasted two homers, the second of which proved to be the decisive run.
Phipps' sublime performance was similar to his Saturday outing in which he went 3-for-4 with a home run and two doubles. On Sunday, the Bats scored four runs in both the first and fifth innings, punctuated by Phipps' two-run single and his three-run homer. He added a solo shot in the seventh to push his season total to 13, topping the 12 he banged last season between Double-A Carolina and Louisville and setting a new career high.
Phipps was a one-man wrecking crew. He accumulated a personal and team season high of six RBI. He tallied Louisville's first multi-homer game since the now-departed Paul Janish went deep twice in the team's season opener. Heading into the third contest of the series after going 3-for-3, Phipps is 6-for-7 with three homers, eight RBI, two doubles and four runs scored.
It was a back-and-forth affair. Columbus (66-63) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Louisville (50-80) responded with four runs in the bottom half. The Clippers tied it up in the third. The Bats reacted with another four-spot in the fifth and added a run in the seventh. Columbus racked up its own four-spot in the eighth.
The latter outburst for the Clippers trimmed the Bats' lead to 9-8. J.J. Hoover came on for Louisville in the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Vinny Rottino, but then Hoover dashed Columbus' hopes of a dramatic comeback victory. He retired Cord Phelps, who had homered in three of his last four games, on a fly out and struck out Russ Canzier, who had homered in the third inning. Hoover sealed his team-best 13th save when second baseman Chris Valaika fielded a sharp ground ball by Matt LaPorta and flipped to shortstop Didi Gregorius for a game-ending force out.
The Bats may have guessed it would be their day when Jeanmar Gomez began his 10th start by walking leadoff man Willie Harris on four pitches. Columbus' starting pitcher had issued a single free pass over his previous three outings combined and hadn't walked more than three in any game this season. Gomez equaled that total with no outs in the second, surpassed it in the third and finished with a season-worst five. He entered with eight walks the entire year.
The trio of Neftali Soto, Felix Perez and Phipps combined to go 8-for-12 in Saturday's win, and they struck early in Sunday's game. Soto scalded an RBI single up the middle and Phipps located the same area with a two-run single that were sandwiched around a base hit by Perez, who then stole third and came home on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead in the first.
A walk and an error by the Bats helped set up LaPorta's RBI single and Lars Anderson's sacrifice fly in Columbus' two-run first. The Clippers didn't need any assistance in the third, as Canzier socked his 20th homer of the season, a two-run shot that tied it at 4-4.
Valaika and Gregorius opened the fifth with consecutive singles, but Gomez got himself in position to escape unscathed by getting the next two outs. Phipps had other ideas. He cranked a three-run homer to right center, highlighting a frame that also saw an RBI single from Cody Puckett.
Phipps' second homer proved to be just as vital. He led off the seventh by finding the berm in left center off Loek Van Mil to give Louisville a 9-4 lead.
Three Bats relievers - Bill Bray, Nick Christiani and Will Ohman - pitched in an eighth inning that saw Columbus pile up four runs on six hits to rally back to within 9-8. The Clippers wasted a chance to tie or go ahead when Juan Diaz was thrown out at third by Phipps on the back end of Tim Fedroff's two-run single.
Sean Gallagher (10-9) picked up the win after allowing four runs, including three earned, on five hits in five innings. Josh Judy followed with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief before things got tense in the eighth.
Gomez dropped to 6-4 after allowing a season-high eight earned runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings. Gomez has made 13 starts this season with the parent Cleveland Indians, going 4-7 with a 5.32 ERA.
The Bats finished with 12 hits, one less than the Clippers. Valaika went 3-for-5 with two runs and Gregorius added two hits for Louisville, which improved to 5-1 at home against Columbus this season. Rottino, Phelps, Canzier and Anderson had two hits apiece for Columbus.
Louisville and Columbus will square off at 7:05 p.m. Monday in the third game of the four-game set. The Clippers' David Huff (5-6, 5.34 ERA) and the Bats' Chad Reineke (5-8, 4.27) are the probable starting pitchers.