By Josh Cook
The Louisville Bats beat up on a former teammate to win their eighth straight game.
The Bats scored four unearned runs in the seventh inning off their former closer Jon Adkins, now a relief pitcher for Charlotte, to beat the Knights 5-2 Friday night in front of 8,894 at Louisville Slugger Field.
Michael Griffin's two-out RBI-double in the bottom of the seventh proved to be the game winner and gave Louisville its first four-game sweep of the season, as well as its 11th win in its last 12 games and 21st in its last 26. It also established the team's longest win streak in two years.
Griffin and Wilkin Castillo - who hit an inside-the-park home run - went 2-for-3 at the plate for the Bats (57-50), who are now 1 1/2 games in front of Indianapolis (56-52) for the International League wildcard playoff spot
Meanwhile Chad Reinke pitched four solid innings in relief of Micah Owings to pick up the victory and highly-touted rookie Aroldis Chapman tossed a perfect ninth for his first career save for Louisville, which now trails IL-leading Columbus (66-42) by 8 1/2 games.
Still it was Charlotte (52-56) that took a 1-0 lead in the first. Alejandro De Aza led off the game with a single against Owings, the Bats' starter. He moved to second on a ground out, then scored on Buck Coats' RBI-single.
Louisville tied the game in the fifth when, with two outs, Castillo hit a pitch from Charlotte reliever Clevlan Santeliz into the left field corner. The ball became briefly trapped under the wall - causing De Aza to throw up his hands to try and signal a dead ball - the left fielder retrieved it. In the meantime Castillo chugged around the bases for the Bats' first inside-the-park variety of their IL-leading 125 home runs this season.
Adkins, who became the Louisville franchise's all-time saves leader earlier this season before being released during the Triple-A All-Star break, came on to start the seventh. Adkins, who signed with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday and made his debut with the Knights on Friday, got Wladimir Balentien to pop out before walking Danny Dorn. Corky Miller then reached on an error by Charlotte second baseman Fernando Cortez before Adkins hit Castillo to load the bases.
After a coach's visit to the mound Drew Sutton's sacrifice fly gave Louisville its first lead. Griffin followed with a double to score Miller and make it 3-1. Adkins then intentionally walked Yonder Alonso to load the bases again before Todd Frazier's ground-rule double made it 5-1.
Stefan Gartrell led off the eighth with a solo home run off Reineke. It was the only run allowed by Reineke (7-7), who also gave up four hits while walking one and striking out two over four innings.
Chapman replaced Reineke to start the ninth and sandwiched a strikeout around a pair of groundouts to end the game.
Griffin entered the game after Bat Chris Valaika, who was started the game at shortstop, strained his knee in the second inning.
The Bats begin a two-game series against IL West-leading Clippers at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night. Right-hander Homer Bailey (0-1, 10.38 earned run average) will make his second rehab start for Louisville. To make room on the roster for Bailey, who comes up from Dayton, Matt Klinker was demoted to Carolina. There will be $2 Anheuser Busch Craft Beer "Happy Hour" from 5-6:30 p.m. with live music by The Instruction. There will also be a special appearance during the game by the acrobatic Duo Design.