The Louisville Bats fell victim to some terrific pitching out the Charlotte Knights’ bullpen as they fell 3-1 Friday night. The Bats (43-71) dropped their fourth straight overall in front of a Louisville Slugger Field crowd of 8,972.
The Bats had an opportunity to tie or even win it in the ninth. After Neftali Soto doubled to start the inning, Chris Valaika singled to put the tying run aboard. After Felix Perez sacrificed himself to get Valaika to second, Cody Puckett flew out and Bill Rhinehart grounded out, ending the game.
Louisville finished the game 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Bats got their chance to strike first in the third but got nothing. After Corky Miller singled to start the inning, Denis Phipps doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out. But Didi Gregorius flew out to right, Henry Rodriguez struck out, and Soto flew out to right to end the threat.
The Knights got their chance immediately following and made good of it. The Knights loaded the bases with nobody out and got a big two-run double from Greg Golson to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, Dan Johnson scored on a groundout by Jared Mitchell to make it 3-0.
The runs came off Bats starter Pedro Villarreal (3-8) who was making his first start since coming off the disabled list.
The bullpen had Villarreal’s back once he came out. After Golson’s double, Villarreal combined with Kanekoa Texeirra, Travis Webb, and Jordan Smith to retire the final 18 Charlotte hitters, giving their offense a chance.
“Our pitchers did a good job tonight,” Bats manager David Bell said. “If it wasn’t (Villarreal’s) first game back, he may have finished the game.”
The Knights’ pitchers were up to the task, giving up just one run on four hits over the final six innings. Brian Bruney (2-3) was credited with the win while Deunte Heath and Donnie Veal each earned holds. Brian Omogrosso, who pitched the ninth, was credited with his fifth save of the season.
The lone Bats run of the night came on an RBI double from Perez in the seventh. The hit gave Perez at least one in 34 of his last 46 games. In that time, he is hitting .337 with two homers, 15 doubles, and 17 RBIs. Perez, who was batting .227 after May, now leads the club with a .289 average.
Game three of the four game series is set for a 6:05 first pitch Saturday night. Sean Gallagher (9-7, 4.86 ERA) will be on the mound for the Bats against Charlie Shirek (9-4, 3.68 ERA) of the Knights.