Columbus Rally Falls Short in Game 1 of Governor’s Cup Playoffs; Braves 6, Clippers 5
Bob Toth | On 08, Sep 2016
A two-run homer in the top of the eighth by Reid Brignac broke a 2-2 tie as the Gwinnett Braves held off a Columbus rally in the bottom of the ninth and the Clippers fell in the International League semi-final opener, 6-5, at Huntington Park.
The Braves’ Triple-A affiliate and IL South champions took a 2-0 lead in the second against Columbus starter Adam Plutko. Blake Lalli singled with one out and scored on a two-out, two-run homer from Daniel Castro to give the Braves the lead.
The Clippers responded with a big home run of their own in the bottom of the third to help even the score against Gwinnett starter Carlos Portuondo. With one out, Yandy Diaz homered to left to cut the Gwinnett lead to 2-1. Rehabbing MLBer Yan Gomes drew a walk in his second plate appearance of the game and moved to third on a double to left by Giovanny Urshela. Jesus Aguilar followed with a fly to center, deep enough to score Gomes to tie the game at two.
Plutko retired nine in a row after the home run until a two-out single by Emilio Bonifacio in the fifth. He stole second and Brignac walked, but Plutko got out of the jam with a grounder to second.
Reliever Bradley Roney shut down the Clippers, striking out Bradley Zimmer to end the third before striking out the side in the fourth. He got Diaz to ground out to start the fifth before striking out the next two to end the inning, as well as the first two batters to start the sixth before Zimmer singled to right. Trying to jump start a rally, Zimmer was erased trying to steal to end the sixth.
Plutko retired the final seven he faced before turning the game over to Austin Adams in the eighth. Bonifacio reached on a bunt single before Brignac left the yard with the game-changing two-run shot. Adams gave up a single to the next batter before getting three outs to end the frame.
Columbus loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but could not score against Madison Younginer, Brian Moran (the left-hander taken by the Indians in the minor league portion of the Rule V draft last offseason), and Maikel Cleto. With two down, Michael Choice singled, bringing Moran on. He walked Zimmer before handing the game over to Cleto, who gave up an infield single to Collin Cowgill before getting a bases loaded force out at third to end the threat.
Adams gave up what would prove to be the deciding run in the top of the ninth after Lalli singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Castro to make it a 5-2 game. The extra run would prove costly, as the Clippers would get two in the bottom of the ninth as Guillermo Quiroz hit a two-run homer to left-center, scoring Diaz after his one-out single. Urshela and Aguilar each flied out to end the game.
Plutko worked seven innings, allowing just two runs. He walked one and allowed five hits while striking out four. Adams took the loss, allowing three runs on four hits in an inning and two-thirds.
Diaz was the offensive star of the night for the Clippers, going 4-for-5 leading off while playing third base. He hit a solo home run and scored two runs in the defeat.
Game 2 of the best-of-5 series is set for 6:35 PM ET from Columbus on Thursday night. Left-hander Ryan Merritt (11-8, 3.70 ERA) will take the ball for the Clippers. The Braves have not officially announced a starter for Thursday.
Photo: Gwinnett Braves Twitter (@GwinnettBraves)