Despite coming back to take a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning, the Gwinnett Braves (18-16) fell 7-4 to the Columbus Clippers (16-18) in front of a season-best crowd of 9,608 at Coolray Field on Saturday night.
The G-Braves scored three runs in the seventh to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 advantage. But the bullpen gave up four runs over the final two innings as the Clippers claimed their second straight win.
Making his Triple-A debut, Gwinnett right-hander Patrick Weigel got off to a rough start. Bradley Zimmer and Ronny Rodriguez led off the game with singles for Columbus, and Chris Colabello and Richie Shaffer each followed with RBI singles for a 2-0 lead. Weigel limited the damage to two runs by inducing a double play ground out from Giovanny Urshela.
After retiring the side in order in the second, Weigel again got into trouble in the third. Rodriguez, Colabello, and Shaffer each singled to score another run and increase the lead to 3-0. But again, Weigel induced a double play ground out from Urshela to escape further damage.
In the bottom of the third, the G-Braves loaded the bases with two outs against Columbus starter Shawn Morimando, but the Clippers left-hander got through the inning by striking out Rio Ruiz to keep Gwinnett off the board.
Weigel began the fourth by striking out Erik Kratz for his first career Triple-A strikeout in a scoreless frame, and he recorded two more strikeouts in a clean fifth to keep the deficit at three runs. The G-Braves supported him with a run in the bottom of the fifth as Ruiz hustled to beat out an infield single scoring Mel Rojas Jr. from third to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Weigel set down the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings and retired the final 10 batters he faced. He finished with 7.0 strong innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out five in a no-decision.
Columbus turned to reliever Louis Head in the seventh, and he didn't provide much relief for the visitors. Ozzie Albies led off with a double and a stolen base, his team-leading 11th of the season. Johan Camargo brought Albies home with a single to cut the deficit to 3-2. Two batters later, Gwinnett evened the score as Lane Adams doubled off the center field wall, scoring Camargo all the way from first base. Kyle Crockett (W, 1-0) then came in for the Clippers to face Ruiz. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Ruiz laced a triple to center, scoring Adams to give the G-Braves a 4-3 lead after seven.
Akeel Morris (L, 0-1) came in for the G-Braves in the eighth. After pitching carefully to the first four batters he faced, he recorded two walks and two strikeouts. Urshela followed with a single to load the bases. David Peterson (BS, 2) then came in for Gwinnett and gave up a two-run single to Kratz as the Clippers pulled ahead 5-4. In the ninth, Rodriguez extended the lead to 7-4 with a two-run single off Peterson.
Shawn Armstrong (S, 4) struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to finish the game.
For Gwinnett, Ruiz went 2-for-5 with his first triple of the season and two RBIs. Albies and Rojas Jr. each went 2-for-5 with a run scored.
Rodriguez went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs for Columbus.
The G-Braves and Clippers conclude the three-game series on Sunday afternoon at Coolray Field, first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. Right-hander Lucas Sims (3-0, 2.57) starts for Gwinnett while Columbus will start right-hander Michael Peoples (1-0, 3.18). Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 12:35 p.m.
As part of Sunday Funday (sponsored by Georgia United Credit Union), fans are invited to play catch on the field before the game at approximately 12:05 p.m. Following the game, kids ages 12 and under are welcome to run the bases. For tickets, call 678-277-0340 or visit GwinnettBraves.com/tickets.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.