By Josh Cook
After this eight-game road trip is complete the Louisville Bats might want to consider changing their nickname to the Big Bats.
That's because the Bats have hit three or more home runs in five of seven games so far on an eight-game road swing away from Louisville Slugger Field.
They did it again Sunday, hitting four more big flies on their way to an 8-3 win over the host Gwinnett Braves at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville, Ga.
The victory - Louisville's fourth in a row, seven in its last eight games and 17th in its last 22 - moved the Bats into sole possession of second place in the International League West. Louisville (53-50), which is now three games above .500 for the first time all season, is one game ahead of Indianapolis and 9 1/2 behind Columbus (62-40).
Sunday against Gwinnett (46-56) Corky Miller, Danny Dorn and Juan Francisco all hit two-run home runs, while Zack Cozart hit a solo shot as the Bats brought their IL-leading total to 117 on the season.
That was more than enough for four Louisville pitchers, who combined to limit the Braves to just five hits.
The Bats' bats got going in the second inning. Dorn doubled with two outs, then scored when Chris Valaika did the same. Miller followed with his two-run shot to give Louisville a 3-0 lead. It was the fifth of the season for Miller in only his second game back with the Bats after being outrighted to the team from parent Cincinnati last Thursday when catcher Ramon Hernandez was activated from the 15-day disabled list.
Gwinnett scored once in the bottom of the inning off Louisville starter Micah Owings, making his first Triple-A start of the season. Owings, who has a 3-2 record and a 5.40 ERA in 22 appearances with the Reds this season was optioned to Louisville on Wednesday when Cincinnati called up reliever Carlos Fisher.
Owings, who went 1-0 in two starts with the Bats in 2009, pitched only three innings. He gave up one earned run on one hit while walking three and striking out one.
Enerio Del Rosario came on to start the fourth for Louisville. He pitched a perfect two innings to improve his record to 2-3 this season.
The Bats increased their lead to 5-1 in the sixth when Francisco singled with two outs, then scored on Dorn's two-run homer off Gwinnett starter Todd Redmon (8-10).
The Braves scored one in the bottom of the inning with a homer of their own - this one by Freddie Freeman - off recent signee Jason Isringhausen. The Reds inked the free agent right-hander on Thursday and assigned him to Louisville on Saturday.
Isringhausen, who made his debuts in the Majors in 1995, last pitched in the big leagues in 2009 with Tampa Bay. He blew out his elbow in June of that year and is returning from Tommy John surgery. Freeman's homer was the only hit and run Isringhausen gave up in an inning.
Matt Klinker started the seventh, in his first relief appearance with the Bats, and pitched the final three innings. He gave up three hits and one run - on a solo homer by Clint Sammons - while walking two and striking out one to earn his first save.
He got plenty of help from his teammates. In the eighth Frazier walked, then scored on Francisco's two-run homer. It was Francisco's 10th homer of the month and his 15th of the season.
In the ninth Cozart hit his 15th big fly of the season, a solo shot, to cap off the scoring.
Francisco, who is hitting .302 this month, and Cozart, who is hitting .312 in July, led Louisville's 11-hit attack. Each went 3-for-5. Dorn and Miller added two hits apiece.
The Bats cap off their series against the Braves, and an eight-game road trip in which they are 6-1 so far, at 7:05 p.m. Monday night at Lawrenceville. Louisville returns home at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night to face Charlotte in the first of a six-game homestand by the Bats.
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