By Josh Cook
The Louisville Bats' hopes for a third straight division title will come down to the final game of the regular season.
Louisville lost 5-3 to Indianapolis on Sunday night at Louisville Slugger Field, while Toledo clobbered Columbus 9-1. The Clippers (79-64) lead the Bats (78-64) by a half-game in the International League West heading to Monday - the final day of the regular season.
If Louisville, which has already clinched at least an IL wildcard playoff berth, beats the visiting Indians on Monday (first pitch at 1:05 p.m.) and Columbus loses at Toledo (first pitch 1 p.m.) the Bats will win their third West crown in a row.
Louisville lost for the eighth time in its last 12 games Sunday when Indy (71-72) scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to win.
The Indians tallied two runs in the first inning off Bats starter Jeremy Horst. Kevin Melillo led off the game with a triple, then scored when Pedro Ciriaco followed with a single. After Alex Presley struck out Brandon Moss singled Ciriaco to second. Erik Kratz's two-out single scored Ciriaco.
Horst, in his second start of the season (he has 44 appearances with three teams) allowed those two runs and seven hits while walking two and striking out three over four innings.
Louisville tied the game in the fifth when Eric Eymann, Kris Negron and Mike Costanzo led off the bottom of the fifth with three straight singles off Indy starter Chris Jakubauskas. Costanzo's single scored Eymann. Negron scored one batter later on Dave Sappelt's ground out.
The Indians retook the lead when Mitch Jones led off the sixth with a solo homer off Bats reliever Jerry Gil.
Louisville tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Todd Frazier led off with a double, took third when Devin Mesoraco reached on throwing error by Ciriaco (Indy's shortstop) and scored on Luis Terrero's single.
Daniel Ray Herrera (2-2) replaced Gill to start the seventh. He gave up a out-out single to Presley, then an RBI-double to Moss and finally a sacrifice fly by Jones.
The Bats couldn't answer. Brian Bass (4-4) sat them down in order in the seventh, then an Indians' error allowed Frazier to reach base in the eighth. In the ninth Indy closer Jean Machi gave up a leadoff single to Eymann, but then got some help from his defense when Sean Henry grounded into a double play.
Eymann led Louisville with two hits apiece.
Monday will be Fan Appreciation Day at Slugger Field. Fans can enjoy $1 hot dogs and Pepsi products as well as free programs. Also kids will be able to run the bases after the game.
Regardless of whether the Bats enter the postseason as the division champ or IL wildcard they will play their first round games Wednesday and Thursday at Slugger Field. Both games will start at 6:05 p.m. Tickets are already available.