LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett Braves found out just how tough Columbus Clippers pitcher Josh Tomlin is.
The Cleveland Indians prospect quieted the G-Braves bats to just one hit and struck out five in seven innings.
CLIPPERS 8, G-BRAVES 1
• What happened: Josh Tomlin shut down the G-Braves on just one hit over seven innings, while Columbus pounded out 16 hits, three by Brian Bixler and two each six other players.
• Stat of the day: Jordan Schafer had a busy night in center field, making seven putouts on fly balls and pop outs, plus logging plenty of mileage chasing after several base hits.
• Web gems: Schafer's circus catch in the top of the first prevented a big inning and briefly kept the G-Braves in the game. After Columbus' first three hitters reached to load the bases with nobody out, former Georgia Tech standout Wes Hodges sent a towering fly ball toward the 400-foot mark near straightaway center field. Schafer raced after it and made the leaping catch against the wall. Michael Brantley scored to put the Clippers up 1-0, but Schafer quickly got the ball back to the infield in time to double up Brian Bixler at second, and G-Braves starter James Parr retired Brian Buscher on a pop to second to escape without further damage. Two innings later, Schafer came in and made a diving snag of Chris Gimenez's sinking pop to shallow center.
• Pivotal moment: Trailing just 1-0 after Schafer's catch, the G-Braves had a chance to get back into the game when Gregor Blanco and Freddie Freeman drew one-out walks. Barbaro Canizares sent a hard-hit liner to right, but Head was able to run it down, and threw back to second to easily double off Blanco, who had been off with the pitch on an attempted hit-and-run. Columbus then erupted for three runs in the top of the second, which was more than enough support for Tomlin.
• Worth noting: The Coolray Field Campout originally scheduled following Friday night's game was postponed due to the chance of thunderstorms forecast for the overnight hours. It has been rescheduled for Friday, June 4, when the G-Braves host the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees at 7:05 p.m. The movie scheduled to be show on the video board - "The Sandlot" - remains the same.
• On deck: The G-Braves face the Indianapolis Indians for the opener of a four-game series to kick off their road trip tonight at 7:05. Todd Redmond (3-4, 5.66 ERA) takes to the mound for the G-Braves, with Brad Lincoln (4-2, 3.83) getting the start for the Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.
And his Columbus teammates pounded out 16 hits, including three from Brian Bixler, as the Clippers routed the hosts 8-1 before 5,707 fans Friday night at Coolray Field.
Carlos Santana was the only player in the Columbus lineup without at hit, while seven of the nine players in the Clippers batting order managed at least two hits, with Bixler, Michael Brantley and Jared Head each driving in two runs.
That was plenty of support for Tomlin, who shut down the G-Braves bats and faced just two batters over the miminum, giving up only Gregor Blanco's leadoff double in the fourth inning.
"He pounded the zone … and he worked both sides of the plate," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said of Tomlin (5-1). "He was on top of his game, and he did what he's supposed to do.
"They've got some good pitching over there, and first and foremost, they swing the bat. They come out hacking, and you've got to stand toe-to-toe with them."
The G-Braves tried to stand toe-to-toe with Columbus, but it was a struggle from the first inning.
Brantley and Bixler led off the game with back-to-back singles, followed by a walk to Santana to load the bases with nobody out.
Jordan Schafer's leaping catch against the center-field wall on Wes Hodges' sacrifice fly kept the G-Braves out of a big inning when it turned into a double play at second, and the Clippers lead was just 1-0.
But the Braves couldn't answer even after a promising start when Blanco and Freddie Freeman drew one-out walks to put runners on first and second in the bottom of the inning.
Barabaro Canizares sent a liner to right, but Head was able to run it down for the out, and with Blanco off with the pitch on an attempted hit-and-run, Head had an easy flip to second to double him off and end the inning.
"I thought we got a huge break (with Schafer's catch), and then we might feed off that," Brundage said. "We live and die with playing aggressive. … You've got to score some runs against this ball club."
Columbus then broke the game open in the top of the second.
The Clippers strung together four straight hits after a one-out walk to Head, with the big blow being Brantley's two-run double that hit off Freeman's and into the right-field corner, and struck for three runs in the second to extend the lead to 4-0.
That would be all Tomlin needed.
Even the few times G-Braves hitters were able to get good wood on the right-hander's pitches, the Columbus defense was in position to make plays.
Freeman was foiled twice on hard-hit balls — once by Tomlin himself and another on a diving stop by Bixler — while third baseman Brian Buscher made a pair of diving stops — once robbing Canizares and another to frustrate Mitch Jones.
"He's a pretty good pitcher," said Blanco, the only G-Braves hitter able to reach Tomlin for a hit. "He just throws the ball on the corners and mixes his pitches. … As long as he keeps pitching like that, he's going to get a lot of (outs)."
The G-Braves were able to get better swings at Josh Judy once Tomlin left the game in the eighth as Matt Young greeted him with a double, only to get doubled off when Judy snagged Joe Thurston's liner up the middle.
And they were able to avoid the shutout when Brandon Hicks launched his second home run of the season to deep left-center a batter later.
The G-Braves then managed hits by Blanco — his second of the game — and Freeman in the ninth, but Frank Hermann was able to induce Canizares into a 6-4-3 double play to close out the victory for Columbus.