LAWRENCEVILLE —For 91⁄3 innings this season, Stephen Marek looked nearly untouchable. He had allowed five hits and struck out 14 in the span, walking none over eight games.
That ended Friday.
The G-Braves entered the ninth tied 5-5 with Columbus and Marek entered for the ninth time. He walked Lonnie Chisenhall on four pitches and followed that by hitting Chad Huffman. He almost fought through it, getting a sac bunt and a strikeout. But with the bases loaded Luke Carlin cleared the bags with a double giving the Clippers an 8-5 win to complete the four-game sweep of the G-Braves. It was the first time Gwinnett has been swept since a home series July 7-11 against Charlotte last season.
Columbus won its ninth straight game.
“We were playing a good team, we knew that going in,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “When you do make mistakes you are going to get exposed against a good ballclub.”
It wasn’t just Marek.
Columbus began its comeback when Luis Valbuena tied the game in the eighth with a two-out, two-run home run off reliever Juan Abreu. The two runs were the first allowed by the right-hander in his 101⁄3 innings this season.
“It’s an usual pitching night when two guys give up their first runs of the season,” Brundage said.
That was how the series went for the G-Braves. In game one, starting pitching dug too deep a hole. In games two and three, it was the offense not coming through with runners on base. And Friday, it was the relief pitching.
“When you go through phases like this, things don’t bounce your way,” Brundage said. “On the upside, we know what we need to work on. We know what gets exposed and how we need to play.”
Early in the game it looked like a repeat of the previous two nights.
The G-Braves stranded two runners in the bottom of the first and went down in order in the third.
The Clippers struck first, when Jason Kipnis scored on a wild pitch by starter Rodrigo Lopez with the bases loaded and two outs in the second. An error by Mauro Gomez at first base extended the inning and loaded the bases to set up the score.
Lopez did his best work in damage control, he allowed three runs, two earned over 52⁄3 innings. It was the veteran right-hander’s shortest outing of the season, but he stranded seven runners and struck out six.
But an RBI sacrifice bunt by Jordan Schafer got the G-Braves on the board in the third and they took the lead in the fifth.
Shawn Bowman scored the tying run when Kipnis bobbled a Jose Constanza ground ball to second base for his second error of the game. The failed out mattered more when, with two outs, Matt Young knocked in Constanza with a triple and Mauro Gomez capped the rally with an RBI single.
Schafer knocked in his second run to extend the lead in the seventh.
“We swung the bats, we hit some harder balls tonight,” Brundage said. “Sometimes it doesn’t bounce your way.”