The Louisville Bats got stellar work from their bullpen Friday night as they came back to beat the Gwinnett Braves 3-2. 5,369 were in attendance at Coolray Field to see the Bats take game one of the four game series.
Jordan Smith, Nick Masset, and JJ Hoover combined to pitch the final three innings and retire nine of the ten batters they faced to back the Bats’ comeback from down 1-0 and 2-1.
After Smith’s scoreless seventh, Henry Rodriguez broke a 2-2 tie with an eighth inning RBI single that scored Didi Gregorius, who reached on an error. That was all the Bats needed.
Masset, who was making his second Major League rehab appearance for the Bats, tossed a perfect eighth inning capped by striking out Josh Kroeger.
Hoover pitched a perfect ninth to earn his twelfth save of the year.
The bullpen backed another stellar start from Chad Reineke, who went six innings giving up two runs, just one earned, on six hits while walking two and striking out two. It was Reineke’s third straight quality start.
Gwinnett (53-68) reached Reineke in the first. With one out, Felix Pie doubled and advanced to third on an error by Denis Phipps. Ernesto Mejia then flew out to right, allowing Pie to tag up and score, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The Bats (48-73) got a leadoff home run from Neftali Soto in the second to quickly tie the game 1-1.
Gwinnett then took the lead in the third. Luis Durango singled and Pie walked to start the inning. Later, the two executed a double steal, giving the Braves a chance for a big inning. After an RBI single from Terry Tiffee, Reineke hunkered down and got the next two batters to avoid any more damage.
Gwinnett nearly extended their lead in the fourth. Rusty Ryl, who doubled to start the inning, came around trying to score on Durango’s single. But Felix Perez came on and threw out Ryl at the plate to keep the score at 2-1.
Soto came through again for the Bats in the sixth. Reineke singled to start the inning and later advanced to third on an error by Ryl. Two batters later, Soto singled up the middle, scoring Reineke and tying the game 2-2.
The Bats improved to 4-1 against Gwinnett this season and are now 5-4 in the month of August. Louisville has not had a winning month of baseball since April of last year.
Game two of the four game series is set for Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Tim Gustafson (4-3, 4.30 ERA) will be on the mound for the Bats against Sean Gilmartin (0-1, 3.95 ERA).