By Josh Cook
Drew Sutton picked a fine time to break out of his slump.
Sutton's single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Louisville Bats a 3-2 win - their 10th straight victory - over International League West-leading Columbus on Sunday night at Louisville Slugger Field.
The game-winning hit snapped Sutton's 0-for-20 streak at the plate and gave Louisville its third walk-off win of the season.
The victory, the Bats' 13th in their last 14 games and 23rd in their last 28, moved Louisville (59-50) within 6 1/2 games of the division-leading Clippers (66-44). It also gave them a three-game lead on Syracuse (56-53) in the race for the IL wildcard playoff berth.
Sutton's single capped a 4-hour, 14-minute game.
The two teams were in a scoreless tie until Louisville starter Ben Jukich didn't do himself any favors in the fifth.
With one out Jukich's throwing error allowed Jose Constanza to reach second base. He would score on a double by Michael Brantley, the IL's second-leading hitter. Brantley then scored on a double by Josh Rodriguez to give the Clippers a 2-0 lead.
Jukich allowed seven hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out three over five innings.
Louisville pulled within 2-1 in the sixth when Bryce Stowell, Columbus' third pitcher of the game, walked Wilkin Castillo with one out. Castillo stole second, then scored on Chris Dickerson's single.
The Bats tied the game in the seventh when Yonder Alonso doubled with one out, then scored on Juan Francisco's two-out single.
Louisville had ample opportunities to end the game before the 11th. The Bats were issued a season-high 11 walks and stranded 19 baserunners in the game. They left the bases loaded in the fifth, ninth and 10th innings.
In the 11th Wladimir Balentien led off with a single off Carlton Smith (1-2), who was Columbus' seventh pitcher of the game. The next batter, Michael Griffin, grounded into a force out into a force out at second base. Castillo then grounded out, moving Griffin to second, before Sutton delivered the game-winner into the left field corner. It raised Sutton's season batting average to .264.
Highly-touted rookie Aroldis Chapman (8-6) picked up the win with two innings of hitless relief. He came on with runners on first and third and no outs in the top of the 10th. The left-hander threw a wild pitch to advance the runner at first to second before striking out Matt McBride. Chapman walked the next batter to load the bases before escaping the inning with another strikeout and a ground out. He finished with four strikeouts, one walk and one wild pitch while also reaching 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.
Dickerson and Balentien led Louisville's 11-hit attack with three apiece. Alonso and Francisco added two hits apiece.
The two teams now have a travel day before resuming their split four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday night in Columbus.
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