Dioner Navarro’s fourth home run of the season could not have come at a better time for the Louisville Bats. Down 8-6 with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, Navarro ripped a shot down the right field line that just cleared the fence, securing a 10-8 walk-off over the Gwinnett Braves. 8,024 were in attendance to see the second walk off grand slam in Bats history.
“I was just trying to put the ball play and make something happen,” Navarro said. “I got a good pitch to hit, put good wood on it and fortunately hit it out of the ballpark.”
Or did he? Gwinnett skipper Dave Brundage argued to the umpires that the ball was hit by a fan and should have been ruled a ground rule double. The umpires convened and ultimately ruled in favor of Navarro, giving the Bats their third grand slam in their last two games.
“That was definitely the big hit,” Bats manager David Bell said. “But all the other at bats to put us in that situation were huge.”
After Cody Puckett struck out to start the ninth, Mike Costanzo doubled to start the rally. After Denis Phipps walked, Didi Gregorius was robbed of an extra base hit on a diving play by Jordan Parraz. Unfazed, Corky Miller and Neftali Soto drew back-to-back walks to score Costanzo and make it 8-6, setting the stage for Navarro’s heroics.
“Being down for so long and to be able to come back makes the team feel pretty good,” Navarro said. “We’re looking at the second half as a new season and trying to forget about what happened in the first half.”
The Bats (35-60) trailed virtually the entire night. After the Braves got two in the first, Xavier Paul came through with a three-run homer in the second to give the Bats a 3-2 lead. It was Paul’s ninth overall homer of the year and first since joining the Bats.
The lead was short-lived, though, as Ernesto Mejia sent a towering home run beyond the home run terrace to tie the game at three before the Braves exploded in the fourth against Bats starter Chad Reineke.
Jose Yepez led off the inning with a homer to put the Braves ahead 4-3, Lance Zawadzki tripled and scored when Braves starter Julio Teheran singled up the middle. Jose Constanza followed with a double for the Braves’ fourth straight hit. Reineke was lifted after Josh Wilson flied out to center.
In came Kanekoa Texiera who gave up a two-run single to Felix Pie, the first batter he faced, to make it 7-3. Texiera was able to get out of the inning with no further damage.
The Bats kept battling. Puckett led off the seventh with a double and advance to third on a groundout. Two batters later, Gregorius struck out for what would’ve been the third out but a wild pitch allowed him to go first and Puckett to score to make it 7-4. The next batter, Henry Rodriguez doubled in Gregorius to make it 7-5.
Gwinnett appeared to deliver the knockout blow in the eighth, getting a big insurance run on an RBI single from Pie to make it 8-5, but it was all for not.
“We really competed, had some great at bats, and got good bullpen work,” Bell said. “We grinded out some at bats and put ourselves in a position to win.”
After Reineke gave up seven runs in his 3-1/3 innings of work, Kanekoa Texiera, Carlos Fisher, Travis Webb, and Donnie Joseph combined to pitch the rest of the game giving up one run on five hits, giving their offense a chance they made good on.
“The bullpen did a great job today,” Navarro said. “We just got to keep having good at bats, get quality pitching, and do what we need to do to win games.”
The teams wrap their four game series Sunday night at 6:05. Pedro Villarreal (2-6, 3.96 ERA) will face off against Jose Lugo (2-4, 5.26 ERA) as the Bats will go for a split of the series.