By Josh Cook
Things started well for the Louisville Bats on Thursday night, but they didn't end that way.
The Bats blew an early 4-1 lead as host Indianapolis rallied for a 7-5 win at Victory Field.
The loss dropped Louisville (77-62) 1 1/2 games behind Columbus (79-61), an 8-0 winner over Toledo, in the International League West with only four games remaining in the regular season.
On the brightside the Bats lead Syracuse (74-65), which beat Rochester 7-3 Thursday, by three games in the IL wildcard standings.
Louisville looked good early, though, scoring three runs in the first inning.
Dave Sappelt singled off Indy starter Dana Eveland, then moved to third on Zack Cozart's 29th double of the season before both came home on Danny Dorn's three-run homer.
The Indians (69-71) tallied one in the bottom of the inning off Louisville starter Chad Reineke. Kevin Melillo led off with a single, moved to second when Akinori Iwamura walked, took third on Alex Presley's fly out, then scored on Brandon Moss' single.
Reineke helped his own cause in the second. He reached base on a fielder's choice, advanced to second when Cozart walked and scored on Dorn's single that gave the right-handed pitcher a 4-1 lead.
He lost it in the fourth. Melillo tied the score with a two-out, three-run homer. Then back-to-back doubles by Iwamura and Presley gave Indy a 5-4 lead.
Louisville tied the game in the sixth when Eric Eymann tripled off Indians reliever Justin Thomas, then scored on a throwing error by second baseman Doug Bernier.
However Indy took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning when Reineke walked Iwamura with two outs, then Presley followed with an RBI-triple.
Reineke (9-9) entered the night ninth in the IL in earned-run average (3.66), but after giving up six earned run on eight hits while walking four and striking out four over six innings his ERA grew to 3.91.
The Indians added an insurance run in the seventh when Mitch Jones led off with a double off new pitcher Micah Owings, stole third, then scored on Pedro Ciriaco's sacrifice fly.
The Bats tried to rally in the ninth, but to no avail.
Indians closer Jean Machi walked Sappelt to start the inning, then walked Dorn with one out prompting a coaching visit to the mound. Michael Griffin followed that with a single to load the bases. However Louisville catcher Devin Mesoraco grounded into a double play to end the game.
Sappelt, Dorn and Eymann led Louisville's 10-hit attack with two apiece.
The Bats and Indians meet for the second game of the five-game split set at 7:15 p.m. Friday night.