By Josh Cook
Wladimir Balentien almost single-handedly beat the Gwinnett Braves on Friday night.
The right fielder hit a pair of three-run homers to lead the Louisville Bats to a 7-4 win over the host Braves at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Balentien's bombs - he hit one in the first inning and another in the third - helped the Bats (51-50) climb over .500 since they were 3-2 on April 12.
Louisville's fifth win in its last six games, and its 15th in its last 20, moved the Bats into a tie with Indianapolis for second-place in the International League West.
Gary Matthews Jr. led off the game with a double against Gwinnett starter Jose Ortegano. Zack Cozart followed with an infield single before Yonder Alonso and Todd Frazier struck out. But then Balentien struck his team-leading 17th home run of the season to center field to give the Bats a quick 3-0 lead.
The Braves (46-54), the last place team in the IL South, responded with one run in the bottom of the inning off Daniel Ray Herrera, who was making a spot start for Louisville.
In the seventh start of his career, and his first since 2007, Herrera gave up only that earned run on three hits while striking out four over four innings.
Balentien hit another big fly - his seventh of the month - in the third after Alonso walked and Frazier singled off Ortegano (2-8), who gave up six earned runs on nine hits while walking one and striking out seven over four innings.
Gwinnett rallied for two runs in the fifth and one in the sixth off Louisville reliever Phillippe Valiquette to cut the Bats' lead to 6-4.
But Frazier's solo home run, his 13th of the season, in the seventh provided the final margin. It also raised Louisville's IL-high number of round-trippers to 113.
Rookie Aroldis Chapman got the win with 1 2/3 innings of relief. Chapman (7-6) gave up three hits, but also struck out three as he lowered his earned-run average to 4.07.
Enerio Del Rosario pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his fourth save of the season.
Frazier led Louisville's 12-hit attack with three. Matthews, Cozart and Balentien added two hits apiece.
Gwinnett's Barbaro Canizares raised his IL-best batting average to .316 by going 1-for-1 in his only plate appearance as a pinch hitter. Meanwhile right fielder Brent Clevlen, who regularly burned the Bats when he was with the Toledo Mud Hens, went 2-for-4 with three RBIs to lead the Braves.
The two teams meet at 7:05 p.m. Saturday night in the second game of the four-game series.
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