By Josh Cook
The Charlotte Knights entered Monday as the hottest team in the International League.
But they ended the night as another victim of the red-hot Louisville Bats. Louisville beat Charlotte 11-2 at Knights Stadium at Charlotte, N.C. for its 12th win in its last 16 games.
The Bats (48-49) did so thanks to a strong start by Matt Maloney, after his brief stint with the parent Cincinnati Reds, and four home runs - three in an eight-run ninth inning.
Maloney, making his first Triple-A start since July 1 after two (he went 0-2) with the Reds, gave up only three hits and one unearned run in six innings. He also walked one and struck out three to beat Charlotte (50-47), which came in having won eight of its last 10 games.
Wilkin Castillo gave Louisville a 1-0 lead with his solo home run to start off the third inning.
The Knights tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Maloney (7-5) hit leadoff batter Alejandro De Aza with a pitch. De Aza advanced to second on a Maloney balk, then scored on a one-out single by Buck Coats.
Louisville took the lead for good with one run in the in the fifth. Castillo reached on a fielder's choice, stole second, then scored on Zack Cozart's single.
The Bats added another run in the sixth in an unlikely fashion. With one out Juan Francisco struck out swinging, but he reached first base on a wild pitch by Charlotte starter Carlos Torres (7-6). Francisco moved to second when Torres walked Chris Dickerson, then scored on Daniel Dorn's soft line-drive single to center field.
Russ Springer, who along with Maloney was assigned to Louisville on Saturday, started the seventh in place of Maloney. He gave up a lead-off single, but that was quickly erased by a double play.
The Reds signed Springer, 41 who hasn't pitched in the majors in 2010, to a Minor League contract last Thursday. He split time with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A's last season, going 1-4 with one save and a 4.11 earned-run average in 74 appearances. The 17-year veteran and was considering retirement before signing with the Reds. To make room for Maloney and Springer, Jesus Delgado was sent down to the Carolina Mudcats.
Highly-touted prospect Aroldis Chapman came on in the eighth and was charged one unearned run in just two-thirds of an inning as the Knights closed to within 3-2.
However the Bats added plenty of insurance in the ninth.
Wladimir Balentien led off with his 14th home run of the season off Knights reliever Freddy Dolsi. The next batter, Dorn, reached base on an error by Charlotte shortstop Luis Rodriguez before Chris Valaika drove in Dorn with his 20th double of the season. Louisville then added seven more runs - all with two outs.
First Cozart hit a two-run homer, his 14th of the season and second in as many days, to left-center field. The next batter, Yonder Alonso, singled. He moved to second on a wild pitch by Dolsi, then took third on another wild pitch, this one allowed Todd Frazier to reach first despite striking out. Francisco followed with a three-run home run. Dolsi walked Balentien before being replaced by Miguel Socolovich.
Dorn greeted the new pitcher with an RBI-double before Valaika flew out for the third out.
Jared Burton, who pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, walked one on his way to earning his second save of the season.
Alonso led Louisville's 15-hit attack by going 4-for-5 as he improved his batting average this month to .414. Cozart and Francisco added two hits and three RBIs apiece, while Dorn, Valaika and Castillo also had a pair of hits.
The same two teams meet at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.