Thursday night’s game against the Charlotte Knights could not have started better for the Louisville Bats. After three reached via the walk, Dioner Navarro belted his second grand slam of the season to give the Bats a 4-0 lead just one out into the game. Everything quickly unraveled and it was all downhill for the Bats after that.
Bats starter Tim Gustafson was roughed up for eight runs on nine hits over 4-1/3 innings as the Knights dominated the rest of the game and won 8-6. The eight runs Gustafson allowed were all earned, setting a career high for earned runs.
The first five runs came immediately following the Bats’ four run top of the first. Greg Golson started the inning with a double and came around to score when the next batter, Drew Garcia singled. After walking Jose Lopez, Gustafson got Dan Johnson to ground into a double play ball, but Didi Gregorius made a bad throw that got past Gustafson and allowed Garcia to score, making it 4-2.
Jordan Danks then singled up the middle, extending his on-base streak to 26 games. After Johnson scored on a fielder’s choice from Josh Phegley, Jared Mitchell launched his first career Triple-A home run to cap the inning, giving the Knights a 5-4 lead. Just like that, Louisville’s 4-0 lead had evaporated.
The damage got worse in the fourth when Justin Greene hit a leadoff, solo home run to extend the Knights’ lead to 6-4. It was Greene’s fifth home run of the season.
Mitchell was at it again in the sixth. With two on and one out, Mitchell ripped a double to right-centerfield, scoring Johnson and Phegley to make it 8-4, giving the Knights eight unanswered.
Charlotte (74-53) tied a season-high with their sixth straight victory and maintained their ten game lead in the International League South Division. Their magic number to clinch their first division title since 2006 is now eight.
Louisville attempted to mount a comeback, getting runners in scoring position in each the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings. But the only offense generated was an RBI single from Gregorius in the sixth that made it 8-5 and an RBI groundout from Gregorius in the eighth that made it 8-6. Louisville finished 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left ten men on base.
The Bats (48-79), who lost their sixth straight, dropped to 21-43 on the road this season, leaving them six road losses from the franchise record set by the 1997 Redbirds. Their 79 losses are the most for the franchise since becoming affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. Ironically, Navarro’s slam in the first gave the team seven grand slams on the season, tying the 1984, 2000, and 2007 teams for the club record.
Reds left hander Bill Bray pitched the eighth inning for the Bats as part of his rehab assignment. Bray walked one and struck one in a scoreless frame.
Also of note, Bats outfielder Felix Perez went 2-for-5 with a double. Perez now has 101 hits on the season and leads the team with a .295 batting average. Perez was hitting .227 going into the month of June.
Louisville looks to avoid the sweep Friday night. The Bats are scheduled to send Todd Redmond (8-9, 3.54 ERA) to the mound but will likely scratch him from his start; Redmond is rumored to be the game one starter for the Reds’ double header against the Chicago Cubs Saturday. If Redmond does pitch for the Reds Saturday, it will be his major league debut.
Charlotte is scheduled to send Charlie Leesman (10-9, 2.75 ERA) to the mound to face the Bats. First pitch for Friday’s affair is set for 7:15.