By Josh Cook
In one memorable episode of 'Seinfeld' George Constanza's high school gym teacher calls him, "Can't Stand Ya."
The Louisville Bats have to feel the same way about Columbus' Jose Constanza after Thursday night. The outfielder went 4-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored to lead the Clippers to a 5-2 win over the Bats at Louisville Slugger Field.
The loss, Louisville's fifth in a row to Columbus, narrowed its lead in the International League West to a half-game. The Bats (74-58) meet the Clippers (74-59) for the final time in the regular season Friday night. Louisville has 11 games remaining, as does Columbus,
which is 14-6 against the Bats this season.
Constanza, who is third in the IL in batting with a .321 average, tripled twice Thursday night. The first time came when he led off the game. Ezequiel Carrera followed with a sacrifice bunt that scored Constanza.
The Bats answered with a pair of runs in the second. Wladimir Balentien and Juan Francisco led off the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back singles. After Todd Frazier flew out Danny Dorn drove in Balentien, and moved Francisco to third, with a double. Francisco would score when the next batter, catcher Corky Miller, grounded out.
Columbus tied the game in the second thanks to Constanza. With two outs he reached on a bunt single off Louisville starter Matt Maloney. Constanza moved to second on Carrera's single, then scored on one by former Bat Drew Sutton. Carrera was tagged out at home on the play to keep the game tied at 2.
The Clippers took the lead for good with two runs in the seventh. Jared Goedert reached on a throwing error by Louisville shortstop Zack Cozart to start the inning. He scored when Matt McBride followed with a double. Three batters later Constanza's two-out triple scored McBride to make it 4-2.
The Clippers added some insurance in the eighth on Jordan Brown's solo home run. Maloney (10-7) gave up nine hits and only three of the five runs he allowed were earned, while walking two and striking out five over eight innings.
The Bats couldn't do much against Columbus starter Paolo Espino (2-2) all night. The right-hander who beat them 1-0 Aug. 14 gave up just two earned runs on six hits while walking one and striking out five over seven innings. However Louisville nearly rallied against Clippers reliever Vinnie Pestano in the ninth.
With one out Frazier singled, then reached second on a throwing error by Columbus shortstop Josh Rodriguez. Danny Dorn followed with a single before Pestano walked Miller to load the bases. Pestano, though, struck out Wilkin Castillo then got Dave Sappelt to fly out to end the game and to earn his 14th save of the season.
The two teams meet for the final time in the regular season at 7:05 p.m. Friday night. Louisville left-hander Ben Jukich (5-4, 4.37 earned run average) is slated to take on Columbus right-hander Carlos Carrasco (10-6, 3.77) in the mound matchup. As always Friday's game will be followed by fireworks.