By Josh Cook
The home runs just keep on coming for the Louisville Bats.
And so do the victories.
Monday they hit a season-high tying four round-trippers - including three in the ninth inning - in an 11-2 win at Charlotte. Tuesday afternoon they set a new season high with five big flies in an 8-4 win at Knights Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
Michael Griffin hit two homers, while Juan Francisco, Wladimir Balentien and Chris Denove hit one each as Louisville won for the 13th time in its last 17 games. The matinee victory gave the Bats (49-49) their first .500 record since the Bats were 4-4 in mid-April.
However it was Charlotte (50-48), with single runs in the first and fifth innings, that took a 2-1 lead into the sixth.
Knights leadoff batter Alejandro De Aza doubled off Louisville Matt Klinker. De Aza moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on Luis Rodriguez's single.
The Bats tied the game in the fourth as Francisco continued his big fly July. Francisco led off the inning with his 13th home run of the season, and his eighth of the month.
The Knights took the lead back in the fifth. With one out Robert Hudson singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by Louisville's Chris Valaika, who was playing shortstop. He scored on De Aza's subsequent single to give the Knights a one-run lead.
Valaika made up for his miscue, though, in the top of the inning. After Daniel Dorn walked with two outs Valaika doubled him home to tie the game.
That prompted a coach's visit to the mound, but Charlotte starter Lucas Harrell remained in the game. It proved to be the beginning of the end for the Knights.
Denove singled off Harrell (8-9) to score Valaika and give Louisville the lead for good, at 3-2. Chris Sale replaced Harrell and Griffin, a pinch-hitter, greeted him with a two-run home run to give the Bats a 5-2 lead.
The Knights answered with one run in the bottom of the inning, when Josh Kroeger led off with a solo home run, to pull Charlotte within 5-3. Klinker walked the next batter, Stefan Gartrell, before being relieved by Daniel Ray Herrera. Klinker improved to 4-1 in his sixth start with the Bats. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits while walking two and striking out three.
But the Bats responded in the eighth with three runs - all coming on solo homers. Balentien led off with his team-leading 15th homer, then with two outs Denove and Griffin hit back-to-back round trippers.
That was more than enough cushion for Louisville's bullpen. Herrera allowed one earned run and one hit, while walking one and striking out two over 2 1/3 innings. Philippe Valiquette gave up one hit over the final 1 2/3 innings.
Game 3 of the four-game series is set for 7:15 p.m. Wednesday night.
Photo courtesy Louisville Bats