Jeremy Hellickson allowed 5 hits in the first 2 innings, but settled down and retired the last 11 batters he faced as the Columbus Catfish beat the Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) 8-4 tonight.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the 1st inning, CF Maiko Loyola walked to start the Catfish off. With 1 out, 3B Cesar Suarez singled to right, moving Loyola to third. Loyola came home on a wild pitch, as Suarez moved to second. With 2 out, back-to-back doubles by LF Ryan Royster and 2B Seth Dhaenens put the Catfish up 3-1.
After Savannah closed the gap to 3-2, Loyola hit a 2-out single to left, and moved to second on a throwing error on the play. RF John Matulia singled him in, putting the Catfish up 4-2.
DH Nevin Ashley homered to start the 3rd inning, making it 5-2.
In the 4th, with 2 outs, Matulia was hit by a pitch. Suarez doubled, moving Matulia to third. Ashley tripled, putting the Catfish up 7-2.
Up 7-4 in the 8th, the Catfish added one more run when Matulia singled, and came home on Suarez's 2nd double of the game.
Hellickson struck out 6 en route to his 13th win, 5th best win total in the league. Ryan Owen pitched 2-2/3 innings, allowing 2 runs of 4 hits. Ryan Reid pitched the last 1-1/3 innings, allowing 1 hit and striking out 3, and picked up his 10th save.
The Catfish pitching staff has the league's 2nd best ERA (3.67), and the most saves (43). Suarez's 2 doubles puts him at the 2nd most in the league (42).
A win Monday night would give the Catfish a sweep, and secure a winning record against Savannah for the season.
2nd place Charleston was rained out tonight, and has a double-header scheduled tomorrow. With the win, the Catfish now have a full 2-game lead with 8 games remaining. Charleston has 9 games left. The two teams square off for 3 games starting Tuesday in a series that could decide the 2nd half division title, and a spot against Augusta in the playoffs.