By Josh Cook
The Louisville Bats missed in their attempt to tie a franchise record with their 12th straight victory on Wednesday.
However Homer Bailey kept his own personal streak going Thursday night as the Bats notched their 12th shutout of the season with a 6-0 victory over the Norfolk Tides at Louisville Slugger Field.
The rocket-arm right-handed pitcher continued to show that he is ready for a return to the parent Cincinnati Reds. Bailey, who was making his third rehab start with the Bats, gave up six hits while striking out nine over seven innings - extending his scoreless streak to 13 2/3 innings. Carlos Fisher and Phillippe Valiquette backed Bailey with two innings of three-hit relief as Louisville tied Pawtucket for the International League lead in shutouts.
The Bats' bats gave Bailey all the offense he would need with a five-run second inning as Louisville won for the 15th time in its last 17 games.
The Bats' victory, coupled with Columbus' 11-4 loss to Buffalo, moved Louisville (61-51) within 5 1/2 games of the International League West-leading Clippers (67-46). It also kept the Bats 3 1/2 games ahead of Buffalo in the race for the IL wildcard playoff berth.
Todd Frazier led off the bottom of the second with a solo home run - his 15th of the season. Five of the next six Bats reached base against Norfolk starter Chris George (5-6).
Wladimir Balentien doubled, then advanced to third on Corky Miller's single. After Danny Dorn popped out Michael Griffin doubled home Balentien and Miller to third. Wilkin Castillo's single scored Miller and moved Griffin to third then, after a coaching visit to the mound, Drew Sutton singled home Griffin. Zack Cozart's sacrifice fly made it 5-0.
The Bats added another run in the fourth. George walked Castillo to start the inning, then Yonder Alonso and Frazier with two outs to load the bases. Jim Miller replaced George and promptly threw a wild pitch that scored Castillo.
That was more than enough for Bailey (2-0, 2.50 earned run average), who retired the first eight batters he faced as well as eight of the last nine.
Norfolk (53-60), the last-place team in the IL South and the worst hitting team in the league (.248 batting average), mustered only nine hits against Louisville's trio of pitchers.
Alonso, Frazier, Balentien and Miller led Louisville's 11-hit attack with two apiece.
The Bats have now won eight straight games at Slugger Field, their longest such streak since 2008, and will try to run that to nine at 7:05 p.m. Friday night against the Tides. Louisville right-hander Micah Owings (0-0, 2.57) is slated to take on Norfolk righty Tim Bascom (2-5, 6.51). As always, post-game fireworks will follow.
Photo courtesy Louisville Bats