Bullpen lets down Villarreal, Bats fall 5-4 [Sports]

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When Pedro Villarreal was promoted to the Louisville Bats on May 5, the book on him was that he threw a lot of strikes. He proved it in his first start May 9 against the Norfolk Tides and again Tuesday night against the Rochester Red Wings.

Villarreal tossed a stellar 6-2/3 innings giving up three runs on nine hits while striking out two and walking none. At one point, Villarreal retired ten straight Rochester hitters. It was the second straight outing (13-2/3 total innings) he did not walk a batter.

It was all for not, though, as the bullpen could not hold a one run lead late.

The Bats held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning when Nick Christiani gave up back to back singles to Wilkin Ramirez and Clete Thomas. Ramirez scored to tie the game when the next batter, Danny Valencia, grounded out to first. It was Christiani’s third blown save of the season.

Jordan Smith then came in to replace Christiani and appeared to be out of the jam when Kristopher Negron threw out Thomas at home on a groundball off the bat of Matt Carson for the second out of the inning. But, on the very next pitch, Sean Burroughs doubled to left field to score the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.

It was the Bats’ (12-38) first loss of the season in games in which they had the lead after seven innings of play and their sixth loss in their opponents’ last at bat. They are now 5-5 in one run affairs.

The Bats got on the board first in the second inning when Bill Rhinehart belted his fourth homer of the year. They extended their lead to 2-0 in the third when Willie Harris doubled home Brian Peacock, who began the inning with a double of his own. Harris would score three batters later on a passed ball to make the score 3-0.

It was just the 13th time the Bats have scored first this season. They are 9-4 in such games.

The Red Wings (15-23) cut the Bats’ lead to 3-1 in the bottom half of the third on Ramirez’s RBI groundout. Then in the fourth, Valencia scored on Carson’s double to make it 3-2. Carson then scored to tie the game on a play in which Denis Phipps injured himself.

 After catching a fly ball off the bat of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Phipps landed hard on his right shoulder and laid in the grass writing in pain as Carson tagged from second and scored the tying run.

Phipps’ status was unknown after the game, although he did not appear to have separated his shoulder.

The Bats came right back to take the lead in the fifth inning. After Felix Perez singled and Willie Harris walked, Kristopher Negron ripped an RBI single to left, scoring Perez and giving the Bats a 4-3 lead. They would later load the bases on Neftali Soto’s single only to have Rhinehart ground into a double play to end the threat.

Louisville is now a season-high 16 games under the .500 mark and have a 3-12 record in the month of May. They have lost 14 of their last 17 games and are now 5-16 on the road.

The Bats continue their ten game road swing with a second game in Rochester Wednesday night. They are scheduled to send Chad Reineke (1-2, 3.96 ERA) to the mound against Rochester’s Jeff Manship (2-1, 4.15 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 

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