Michael Aubrey's two-run double in the eighth completed a late comeback as the Syracuse Chiefs (46-58), the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, rallied for a 6-5 win over the Columbus Clippers (65-41) Thursday at Alliance Bank Stadium. The Clippers managed to load the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth, but Atahualpa Severino induced a game-ending groundout to save the win.
The Chiefs started what would become an early slugfest in the first when Brian Bixler crushed a solo homer to center field. But Columbus answered quickly. After a one-out double by Jerad Head, Nick Johnson launched a home run over the right field wall to put the Clippers up 2-1.
Columbus extended their lead in the third amid controversy. With runners on first and second and one out, Shelley Duncan hit a deep fly ball by the foul pole in left field. Umpire Fran Burke originally ruled it a foul ball, but after a discussion with the rest of the crew, he changed the call to a home run. Chiefs manager Randy Knorr and pitcher Tommy Milone were ejected after arguing the call reversal that gave Columbus the 5-1 lead.
Righty Ryan Tatusko took over for Milone from there. He gave up two singles and a walk the rest of the third but got out of the bases loaded jam to keep the deficit at four.
Syracuse loaded the bases twice in the bottom of the inning but only managed one run in the frame. After two one-out singles and a walk, Matt Antonelli hit a sacrifice fly to left-center that pulled the Chiefs within 5-2. Jhonatan Solano reached on an error in the next at-bat, but Jeff Frazier struck out swinging to strand three runners on the base paths.
The pitching staff then dominated through the middle portion of the game. Tatusko and righthander Zech Zinicola held the Clippers to four more hits through the seventh, keeping them scoreless in the process.
Meanwhile, Columbus starter Zach McAllister shut out the Chiefs in his final three innings on the rubber. He finished after six innings, allowing nine hits and two runs with a walk and five strikeouts.
But after his exit, Syracuse inched closer with lefty reliever Nick Hagadone on the mound. Bixler reached to start the seventh when Jason Donald's throw to first sailed over first baseman Jared Goedert. After a Michael Aubrey strikeout, Bixler stole second and advanced to third on a Jesus Valdez single. Chris Marrero then stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter and brought Bixler home on a pop-up that dropped between three Clippers in shallow right-center.
Syracuse capitalized off Hagadone again in the eighth. Jeff Frazier blooped a single just out of the infield to start the frame and moved to second on a balk. Steve Lombardozzi then rolled a slow grounder to rightfield for a one-out single that scored Frazier to pull the Chiefs within 5-4.
Zach Putnam took over on the mound for the Clippers from there, but he couldn't stop the Syracuse rally. A Bixler single put runners on first and second, and Aubrey put the Chiefs up 6-5 with a two-run double one batter later. Putnam got out of the inning with two straight outs, but the damage was already done.
Syracuse righty Jeff Mandel entered to start the ninth. He induced a pop out and a groundout before lefthander Atahualpa Severino entered to face the lefty hitter Johnson. But Severino walked Johnson and the next two batters to load the bases. After three straight balls to Paul Phillips, Severino hurled two strikes, and then induced got a groundout to shortstop to end the game.
The Chiefs and Clippers will close out their series Friday at 7:00 at Alliance Bank Stadium. Righthander J.D. Martin will start for Syracuse against Columbus righty Joe Martinez.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.