It was worth the wait for the Louisville Bats. After enduring a lengthy rain delay, Neftali Soto crushed an opposite field, two run home run in the seventh inning that broke a 1-1 tie and spring boarded the Bats to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Bisons. 8,704 fans were in attendance for the marathon game that, combined with the rain delay, lasted four hours and seventeen minutes.
The Bats (41-67) picked up their fifth series victory of the season and split their season series with Buffalo (52-55).
Soto, who broke an 0-for-20 slump with a 2-for-4 night Thursday, picked up his team-leading 13th home run of the season. He now has 50 RBIs on the season, also good for the team lead.
“(Soto) has a lot of confidence,” Bats manager David Bell said. “He knows he’s going to get through the tough times. Tonight, he came through with the big hit.”
The Bats took advantage of two Buffalo mishaps to take a 1-0 lead after two. Soto reached on a throwing error Josh Rodriguez to lead off the second. Three batters later, Soto scored on a missed catch error on Buffalo starter Garrett Olson at the tail end of what should’ve been an inning-ending double play.
The Bats took the lead into the fifth and, with storms imminent, were three outs away from a probable rain-shortened win. Buffalo had other plans. Lucas Duda singled and advanced to second when Valentino Pascucci walked. The next batter, Matt Tuiasosopo, attempted to sacrifice the runners up but a throwing error on Bats starter Tim Gustafson allowed Tuiasosopo to reach and Duda to score the tying run.
After a terrific diving catch from Didi Gregorius, Gustafson started a 1-6-3 double play to end the frame. The tarp then came on to the field as the rain began to pour.
The game was delayed two hours and five minutes before play resumed. It was the sixth longest rain delay in Louisville’s modern franchise history.
Although his outing was shortened by the rain, Gustafson was stellar for the Bats, giving up the unearned run in the fifth while striking out three and walking just one. In his last 16 innings, Gustafson has allowed just two runs, only one earned.
“(Gustafson) pitched really well,” Bell said. “It’s been three (good starts) for him in a row. He’s going in the right direction.”
The Bats’ bullpen was stellar after the delay. Donnie Joseph (4-0) pitched scoreless sixth and seventh innings to pick up the win while Nick Christiani and JJ Hoover combined to pitch scoreless eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Christiani was credited with his ninth hold of the season while Hoover picked up his seventh save.
“Our bullpen came out and did a great job,” Bell said. “There’s really no good way to approach a long rain delay but (our guys) stayed ready.”
The Bats moved to within one game of the third place Toledo Mud Hens in the International League’s West Division. The two teams meet in Toledo Saturday to begin a four game series to round out July. Sean Gallagher (8-7, 4.89 ERA) will be on the mound for the Bats while Adam Wilk (4-10, 3.09 ERA) takes the bump for the Mud Hens. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.