By Josh Cook
A return to Louisville Slugger Field helped the Louisville Bats return to their winning way.
The Bats extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 12 games with an 8-5 victory over Syracuse on Tuesday night.
The win helped end Louisville's three-game losing skid - its longest since late June/early July - and kept the Bats (69-54) 2 1/2 games behind Columbus in the International League West standings. The Clippers (72-52) won their fourth straight game, the first three were over Louisville, Tuesday night by beating Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 5-1.
The win also extended the Bats' lead in the wildcard playoff to three games over idle Buffalo (65-56) and 5 1/2 games over the Chiefs (64-60).
In its first home game since Aug. 8 Louisville scored three runs in the first inning, two in the fourth and fifth and one in the sixth and held off a late rally for its 20th win in its last 24 games. Yonder Alonso had three hits and three RBIs for the Bats, who got a solid start from Ben Jukich.
Louisville finished with 11 hits with five of those coming in the Bats' first five at-bats against Syracuse starter Shairon Martis.
Dave Sappelt led off with a single to left field. He moved to third when Zack Cozart followed with a double. Alonso's single then scored Sappelt. After a coaching visit to the mound Todd Frazier doubled home Cozart and Juan Francisco followed with a single to score Alonso and make it 3-0 Louisville.
The Chiefs made it 3-2 in the fourth on Leonard Davis' two-out triple off Bats starter Ben Jukich.
Louisville answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Corky Miller singled with one out, moved to second on Jukich's sacrifice bunt (Jukich also reached first on the play). Cozart's two-out single advanced both runners before Alonso's single scored them.
The Bats made it 7-2 in the fifth on Wladimir Balentien's two-run homer - his team-leading 22nd of the season. Martis (7-7) left one batter later, having given up seven earned runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out five.
Both teams scored single runs in the sixth.
In the top of the inning Seth Bynum walked with one out, stole second, then scored on Chase Lambin's single that chased Jukich (5-4). The left-hander left having given up three earned runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out six over 5 2/3 innings.
Daniel Ray Herrera replaced Jukich and threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, giving up one hit and striking out three.
In the bottom of the inning Alonso singled with one out, moved to second when Frazier was hit by a pitch from Chiefs reliever Joe Bisenius, then took third when Francisco was walked. He scored on Balentien's sacrifice fly.
Syracuse scored single runs in the eighth and ninth to account for the final margin. In the eighth Brian Bixler singled off new pitcher Enerio Del Rosario, stole second, then scored on Lambin's single.
In the ninth new pitcher Jeremy Horst gave up a leadoff single to Michael Martinez. Martinez stole second, then scored on Carlos Maldonado's single. Horst struck out former University of Louisville standout Boomer Whiting, then got Danny Espinosa to fly out before he walked Bixler. Aroldis Chapman replaced Horst and struck out Bynum on three pitches for his seventh save of the season.
Miller and Cozart added two hits apiece, while Balentien totaled three RBIs.
Meanwhile Whiting, who is third in the IL in stolen bases (31), went 1-for-4 with a double and was caught stealing once for Syracuse.
The Bats and Chiefs meet for Game 2 of the their four-game series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday night. It will be Ladies' Night at Slugger Field, so field reserved tickets can be purchased at half-price for females 13 and older.