Hamilton Runs Wild, Bullpen Falters
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In their final regular season matchup of the year, the Bats (17-19) fell to the Bisons (23-14) by a score of 5-4. Neftali Soto and Billy Hamilton carried the offense in this one, going 4-for-5 and 3-for-5, respectively. Their solid nights at the plate were not enough though, as Jose Diaz (L, 1-1) gave up the lead in the eighth, and the Bats could not recover.
The Bats spent much of the early part of this season near the bottom in most offensive categories, but have picked it up considerably of late. Averaging over five runs and ten hits per game over their last ten games, the Bats continued their newly found offensive prowess, but were unable to hold the lead.
Hamilton scored three of the team's four runs, and Soto extended his hitting streak to eight games, a team high, matching his eight game hitting streak from earlier this season. Diaz, who had not given up a run this season, gave up a three-run homer in the eighth to take the loss.
The Bisons got the scoring started in the first inning when Anthony Gose came around to score after a leadoff double. The double play ball helped Bats' starter Greg Reynolds out of trouble in the first and again in the second inning.
Hamilton began his night of wreaking havoc at the plate as well as on the base paths in the third inning. After reaching on an infield hit, Hamilton swiped his 20th base of the year; Bisons' catcher Josh Thole airmailed the throw into center field, allowing Hamilton to reach third base. Hamilton scored on a groundout to tie the score at one.
Reynolds allowed three consecutive two-out hits to Bisons in the fourth which plated their second run of the game. This would be all Reynolds would allow, however, as he was very solid. In seven innings Reynolds allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out six. Five of Reynolds' seven starts this season have been quality starts.
Hamilton scored again in the fifth after Neftali Soto lined a base hit to right field, tying the score at two.
The top of the seventh inning saw Reynolds cross the 100 pitch mark, walking the leadoff batter and giving up a single to the next. Reynolds would remain in the game and help himself with some solid defense. On a bunt by Eugenio Velez, Reynolds swiftly came off the mound, fielded the ball with his bare hand, and made a strong throw to third for the out. Reynolds retired the next two batters he would face to complete his night of work.
In the home-half of the seventh, Hamilton got the rally started with a line drive single up the middle. He promptly stole his 21st base of the season, and after a Henry Rodriguez walk, Soto came through once again driving in Hamilton. The Bats would get one more run in the inning on a Denis Phipps sacrifice fly, making the score 4-2.
Diaz entered the game and was able to retire the first batter he faced, but after giving up a double and a walk, right-handed slugger Mauro Gomez, last season's International League MVP, came to the plate. Gomez took Diaz deep to the opposite field for a three-run home run. The 5-4 deficit would hold as Bisons' closer Neil Wagner entered, converting his tenth save in as many opportunities.
After a brief stint with the Reds in which he appeared in six games, Corky Miller returned to the Bats' lineup today and went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Jim Negrych, the Bisons' second baseman and league leader in several offensive categories, entered the game hitting .433. After being held to 0-for-4 with a walk, his average fell to .417.
Despite the loss, there are encouraging signs from the Bats. Billy Hamilton, who had hit around .200 for much of the year, has improved his average to .236 thanks to a .458 mark during his six game hitting streak, and has been untouchable on the base paths. Henry Rodriguez extended his hitting streak to seven games, and Felix Perez continues to hit the ball hard, and was able to extend his hitting streak to six games.
The Bats are on the road for four in Charlotte, and four in Gwinnett, before returning home to face the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday, May 23.
Tomorrow in Charlotte, the Bats' Pedro Villarreal (1-2, 3.96) will face off against the Knights' Andre Rienzo (2-2, 8.72).
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