Aaron Cunningham went 3-for-3 and finished a triple short of the cycle as the Columbus Clippers beat the Louisville Bats 4-2. It was the Clippers’ second victory in as many nights over the Bats and their fourth straight overall win against Louisville. 7,558 were in attendance at Louisville Slugger Field.
Tim Fedroff’s RBI triple in the seventh turned out to be the game-winning hit for the Clippers (71-68), who are now 11-7 against Louisville this year.
The Bats got a second straight strong performance from their starting pitcher. Pedro Villarreal gave up two runs on five hits over six innings of work, earning his ninth quality start of the year, yet was saddled with the loss.
Villarreal (3-12) looked dominant early, retiring the first seven batters he faced. That streak was snapped when Matt Pagnozzi doubled with one out in the third. Cunningham followed with a two-run homer to left, putting the Clippers up 2-0.
Villarreal worked into and ultimately out of trouble in the fifth. After giving up three straight one out singles, Villarreal hunkered down and struck out Gregorio Petit and Russ Canzler to end the inning, averting any more damage.
“That was a perfect example of (Villarreal’s) competitiveness,” Bats manager David Bell said. “We’ve seen him do that several times. He pitched well tonight.”
Louisville seemingly had every opportunity at the plate to support Villarreal. The Bats got leadoff doubles in each the first and third innings but failed to score. They also had a baserunner in every inning but the eighth but finished 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
The two hits they did get came off the bat of Didi Gregorius, who had an RBI single in each the fifth and seventh innings. His single in the fifth broke a 17-inning scoreless streak for the Bats, who have lost 17 of their last 21 games.
On a positive note, before the game, Gregorius was named to the Reds’ Arizona Fall League roster, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a Major League prospect.
“It’s an honor; so many big league players have played in that league over the last 20 years,” Bell said. “The timing is perfect for Didi. He’s clearly one step away from the big leagues. He’s doing everything right on schedule.”
“It’s the best against the best,” Gregorius said. “It’s another season for me. I’ll get ready and look to improve and get better.”
The loss dropped the Bats (51-88) to a season-low 37 games under .500 and a franchise-high 34 games back in the West Division standings.
The two teams travel to Columbus for the final three of their split five-game series Thursday. Chad Reineke (5-10, 4.69 ERA) will be on the mound for the Bats against David Huff (6-6, 5.24 ERA) for the Clippers. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
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