The Gwinnett Braves (18-15) offense was stifled by a trio of Columbus Clippers (15-18) on Friday night at Coolray Field as the G-Braves dropped the opener of their three-game weekend series 5-2 in front of a crowd of 5,566.
Anthony Recker's second home run of the year wasn't enough for Gwinnett as four runs between the fifth and sixth innings led the Clippers to victory.
After rain delayed the start of the game by 58 minutes, Gwinnett starter Andrew Albers (L, 2-1) began the night by escaping early trouble in the first inning. With two singles and an error, the Clippers loaded the bases with nobody out. The veteran left-hander then struck out the next three batters he faced to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the first, Gwinnett took the lead as Ozzie Albies led off with a single to right against Columbus starter Adam Plutko (W, 1-5), then stole second for his team-leading 10th stolen base of the season. Two batters later, Mel Rojas Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Albies with the game's first run.
The Clippers wasted little time tying the game as Erik Kratz led off the second with a solo home run to left off Albers. After giving up the home run, Albers retired nine of the next 10 hitters he faced to keep the game tied going into the fifth.
Columbus would regain the lead in that frame as Daniel Robertson singled with one out and Bradley Zimmer followed with a two-run homer to right, giving the Clippers a 3-1 lead.
Gwinnett got one back in the bottom of the fifth off Plutko as Recker hit a solo home run, his second of the season, 409 feet to left field to cut the Columbus lead to 3-2.
In the sixth, Albers retired the first batter he faced before allowing a one-out single to Ronny Rodriguez, ending his start. Luke Jackson came out of the Gwinnett bullpen for his first relief appearance with the team. On Jackson's first pitch, Kratz lined a triple to center, scoring Rodriguez. Kratz then came home to score on a wild pitch, increasing the Clippers' lead to 5-2.
In his fourth start with the G-Braves, Albers pitched 5.1 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out nine.
Plutko returned to the mound for Columbus in the bottom of the sixth and pitched a scoreless inning to end his night. He allowed two earned runs on four hits over 6.0 innings while walking none and striking out seven to earn his first win of the year.
For Gwinnett, Joel De La Cruz pitched the final two innings and didn't give up a run to keep the G-Braves within three runs. Columbus' bullpen wouldn't let Gwinnett get any closer as relievers Tyler Olson (H, 3) and Josh Martin (S, 1) combined to pitch 3.0 scoreless innings.
Offensively, Kratz led the way for Columbus with a triple, home run, and two runs scored. Recker was the only G-Brave to reach base twice in the loss.
The G-Braves and Clippers continue their three-game series on Saturday night with first pitch at Coolray Field scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Right-hander Patrick Weigel (0-0, 0.00) is set to make his Triple-A debut for Gwinnett against Clippers' left-hander Shawn Morimando (2-4, 7.11). Tony Schiavone has the play-by-play call on 97.7 FM The Other Side of the River beginning at 5:35 p.m.
Saturday night is "Star Wars Night" at Coolray Field. Come on out to the ballpark for a night full of Star Wars-themed entertainment, sponsored by Coolray Heating & Cooling! The first 2,500 fans through the gates will receive a Sean Kazmar Jr. "Star Wars" Bobblehead, also courtesy of Coolray Heating & Cooling. Post-Game Fireworks follow the game. 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.