By Josh Cook
The Louisville Bats' lead in the International League West was short-lived. For now.
Louisville lost its second straight game Saturday night, falling 1-0 to host Columbus at Huntington Park. The defeat dropped the Bats (68-53) 1 1/2 games behind the Clippers (70-52) in the IL West heading into Sunday's finale of the three-game series.
Louisville mustered only three hits, struck out 12 times and was burned by a former Bats in losing consecutive games for the first time since losing three straight at Durham from June 29-July 1.
Louisville, which moved into first place in the IL West on Thursday night, was shutout for the first time since a 6-0 setback to the Bulls on the first day of July.
Columbus starter Paolo Espino (1-1) picked up his first Triple-A win by shutting down the hottest team in the IL. The loss was just the third in the last 22 games for Louisville, with all of those defeats coming at the hands of the Clippers.
Espino allowed only the trio of hits, while walking two and striking out eight over seven innings. The only hits he allowed were a double by Dave Sappelt to leadoff the game, a one-out triple by Danny Dorn in the second and a two-out single by Chris Denove in the fifth.
In both cases on their extra-base hits the Bats left Sappelt and Dorn stranded. For the game Louisville left six on base and went 0-for-9 with runnners in scoring position.
Meanwhile Bats starter Travis Wood, recently demoted from the parent Cincinnati Reds, gave up three hits while walking one and striking out two over two innings. He was replaced by Matt Maloney after only facing 10 batters and throwing 42 pitches in order to preserve him for an upcoming start with the Reds.
Maloney allowed the only run of the game in the fourth. In the bottom of the inning former Bat Drew Sutton, who was released by the team earlier this month, led off with a double. He moved to third on Wes Hodges' sacrifice bunt, then scored when Matt McBride followed with a sacrifice fly.
In six innings Maloney (10-6) allowed only four hits, while striking out two.
Espino, meanwhile, got some help from his bullpen. Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano held the Bats hitless over the final two innings, while also striking them out four times.
The series ends at 5:05 p.m. Sunday at Huntington Park. Right-hander Aaron Harang, down on a rehab assignment from the Reds, is slated to take on Columbus righty Yohan Pino (8-7, 5.64 earned run average). Harang is 6-7 with a 5.02 ERA with Cincinnati this season.