By Josh Cook
From worst to first.
The Louisville Bats, who were in fourth place in the International League West at the Triple-A All-Star break, moved into first in the division Thursday night. Louisville's 10-4 win over host Toledo, coupled with Columbus' 4-3 13-inning loss to Syracuse, gave the Bats (68-51) a half-game lead over the Clippers (68-52) in the West.
Louisville, which trailed Columbus by 11 1/2 games at the All-Star break and was behind the Clippers by as many as 13 games in early July, won its eighth straight game Thursday and its 19th in its last 20.
Chris Valaika and Wladimir Balentien went 4-for-5 at the plate, lead Louisville's 17-hit attack, while newcomer Eric Eymann had four RBIs as the Bats posted their first four-game sweep of the Mud Hens at Fifth Third Field since the stadium was built in 2002.
Meanwhile right-hander Chad Reineke (9-7) won for the fifth time in his last six decisions giving up three earned runs on six hits while walking two and striking out five in five innings. He was backed up by three relievers and plenty of hits.
Louisville scored four runs in the second inning, two in the sixth, three in the eighth and one in the ninth.
In the second Balentien singled with one out, then moved to second when Toledo starter Charles Furbush (2-2) walked Corky Miller. Balentien took third when Danny Dorn grounded into a force out at second. Valaika followed with an RBI-single before Eymann hit a three-run homer - his second in Triple-A.
Toledo (56-63) tallied one run in the fourth - on an RBI-double by Michael Bertram - and two in the fifth on Scott Sizemore's two-run homer.
In the sixth Balentien singled with one out, stole second, then moved to third on Miller's single. After Dorn walked Valaika knocked in Balentien and Miller with a double.
In the eighth Dorn led off with a double against new pitcher Scot Drucker. He moved to third on Valaika's single, then scored on Eymann's sacrifice fly. Valaika moved to second on a wild pitch, then took third on Zack Cozart's single. Both scored on Yonder Alonso's 26th double of the season.
The Mud Hens made it 9-4 in the bottom of the inning on Christopher White's RBI-single off Philippe Valiquette.
Louisville added one more run in the ninth when Balentien tripled off new pitcher Jay Sborz to start the inning. He scored on Miller's ground out.
In his Triple-A debut Dave Sappelt, who was moved up from Double-A Carolina earlier in the day, and Cozart added two hits apiece for the Bats.
Left-handed pitcher Jeremy Horst, who was promoted from Carolina on Thursday, followed up Reineke with two innings of scoreless relief. In his Triple-A debut Horst, who was moved up after Louisville reliever Jesus Delgado was placed on the seven-day disabled list with a torn right PCL, gave up two hits and walked one.
Valiquette came on in the eighth and Enerio Del Rosario took over in the ninth.
The Bats begin a three-game series at Columbus at 7:05 p.m. Friday night. Louisville right-hander Sam LeCure (7-2, 3.15 earned run average) is slated to go against Clippers left-hander David Huff (6-0, 3.80).