LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Bats handed the Gwinnett Braves their third straight loss with a 3-2 win in the final game of the four-game series at Louisville Slugger Field on Sunday night.
The G-Braves (44-52) broke a scoreless tie with a run in the top of the fifth inning as Josh Wilson led off the inning with a single to center off Bats’ starter Pedro Villarreal. Wilson then moved to second on a single by J.C. Boscan, as the G-Braves loaded the bases with starting pitcher Jose Lugo laying down a bunt single. Jose Constanza followed by giving Gwinnett a 1-0 lead with a single to center scoring Wilson from third. The hit also extended Constanza’s G-Braves franchise record hitting streak to 18 games.
Lugo was pitching a fine game for Gwinnett until the middle innings. The left-hander had worked 4.1 innings of no-hit ball until the Bats (36-60) collected three singles off him in the bottom of the fifth.
The next frame, Louisville finally scored as Didi Gregorius whacked a one-out double to right and Henry Rodriguez followed with an infield single putting runners on the corners. Neftali Soto then hit a ground ball to the G-Braves first baseman Ernesto Mejia who threw to second to begin a double play. However, Wilson’s relay to first was wide of the bag enabling Gregorius to score, tying the game 1-1 and sending Soto to second. Xavier Paul broke the tie with a double to left center scoring Soto from second for a 2-1 Bats lead.
Louisville added a much needed insurance run in the bottom of the seventh off Braves’ reliever Andy Russell, who had just received the call-up from AA Mississippi. Mike Costanzo greeted Russell with a double to left and moved to third on a groundout to the mound by pinch hitter Chris Valaika. An infield single by Denis Phipps off the glove of Wilson scored Costanzo from third for a 3-1 lead. Lugo (L, 2-5) went six innings to pick up the loss, as he allowed six hits and two earned runs. The left-hander also struck out a season-high eight batters. Russell pitched the final two innings with three hits, one earned run and one strikeout.
Gwinnett closed the gap in the top of the eighth as Ernesto Mejia (19) hit a towering solo home run to left center off former G-Braves pitcher J.J. Hoover. The homer made it 3-2, and would be as close as Gwinnett got.
Villarreal (3-6) worked seven innings for the win. He gave up eight hits and one earned run while he walked two and struck out four. Hoover went two innings with two hits, one earned run and three strikeouts for his fifth save of the season.
At the plate, Gwinnett was paced by Mejia, who went 3-for-3 in the game, alongside his team-leading 19th home run of the 2012 campaign. Mejia also has 62 RBIs to lead Gwinnett on the season. Meanwhile, Luis Durango was 2-for-4 from the dish.
The G-Braves road trip continues Monday night at Victory Field in Indianapolis with the first of a four-game series against the Indians, who possess the best record (59-36) in the International League. Gwinnett will throw right-hander Eric Junge (5-8, 4.76) against Indianapolis left-hander Rudy Owens (7-4, 2.86) for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.