By Josh Cook
The Louisville Bats' stay in first place lasted just one day.
Host Columbus rode three big innings to a 12-4 win over the Bats at Huntington Park on Friday night to retake first place in the International League West one day after Louisville had moved into the division lead.
The Clippers scored three runs in the second inning, five in the fifth and fourth in the eighth to hand Louisville its most lopsided loss since a 13-4 setback at Rochester on May 14 and end the Bats' eight-game win streak.
Columbus (69-52) has a half-game lead on Louisville (68-52) with two games remaining in the series between the top two teams in the IL West. Despite the loss the Bats have won 19 of their last 21 games with both setbacks coming at the hands of the Clippers.
Friday night Louisville started off well. In the top of the second Todd Frazier led off with a walk, then Wladimir Balentien followed with his team-high 21st home run of the season. That was all the run support the Bats would give starter Sam LeCure, though.
In the bottom of the inning LeCure gave up a one-out single to Wes Hodges, walked Josh Rodriguez, then hit Argenis Reyes with two outs before a coaching visit to the mound. The next batter, Jose Constanza, cleared the bases with a three-run triple to give the Clippers the lead for good.
In the fifth Constanza led off with a double and Ezequiel Carrera followed with a bunt single before Cord Phelps' RBI-single. Jared Goedert then hit a two-run double and former Bat Drew Sutton launched a two-run homer to give Columbus an 8-2 lead.
LeCure (7-3) suffered his first loss with Louisville since May 1, giving up eight earned runs on 10 hits while walking one and striking out five over 5 1/3 innings. Philippe Valiquette followed LeCure, striking out three and giving up one hit in 1 2/3 innings.
The Bats had a hard time hitting Clippers starter David Huff most of the game. In the eighth Huff walked Louisville newcomer Dave Sappelt with one out, then gave up a two-out double to Yonder Alonso before exiting. Huff (7-0) gave up three earned runs on five hits while walking three and striking out three over 7 2/3 innings.
Any hope of a Bats' comeback was squelched in the bottom of the inning, though, when Phelps hit a grand slam off Louisville reliever Jason Isringhausen.
Louisville added a single run in the ninth when Balentien led off with a triple, then scored on Chris Valaika's ground out.
Balentien and Alonso had two hits apiece to account for four of the Bats' six hits.
Constanza led Columbus' 13-hit attack, going 4-for-4, while Phelps went 2-for-5 with five RBIs.
Game 2 of the three-game set is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Saturday night. Left-hander Travis Wood (5-6, 3.12 earned run average), who returned to Louisville earlier this week after a solid stint with the parent Cincinnati Reds, will take on Columbus' Paolo Espino (0-1, 4.26).