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Lambo and Co. Outslugged by Bats 6-4

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Right fielder Andrew Lambo blasted a pair of solo shots to support a quality start from right-hander Brandon Cumpton, but it wasn’t enough as the Indianapolis Indians (66-52) lost their fourth straight game to the Louisville Bats (60-59) by the count of 6-4 on Tuesday night at Slugger Field. With the defeat, the Tribe’s divisional lead has dropped to just six games with 25 regular-season contests remaining.

Andrew Lambo leads the Minors with 31 home runs this season. (Photo by Bill Gentry)

Louisville and Indianapolis stayed true to their theme of closely-contested games this season, and with Tuesday’s nail-biter, 13 of 16 matchups between the two teams this season have been decided by three runs or fewer. The trend has remained prevalent this year largely thanks to stellar starting pitching efforts, and tonight proved to be no different as RHP Brandon Cumpton (6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO) and RHP Yohan Pino (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 9 SO) each turned in quality starts for their club.

Toeing the slab for the Indians, Cumpton worked dominant innings in five of his six total frames on the evening to limit the Bats to just two runs on two hits and three walks with six strikeouts. The right-hander initially allowed just two singles to Louisville, but after issuing a two-out walk to 2B-SS Emmanuel Burriss, Cumpton fell victim to a two-run bomb from rehabbing LF Ryan Ludwick that gave the home squad a quick 2-0 edge. Indianapolis’ hurler didn’t dwell on the mistake though, and rebounded to retire 10 straight batters from the third to the sixth inning.

Yet where Cumpton was good, Pino was just slightly better as Louisville’s arm fanned nine batters with no walks in his 6.1 innings of work. The righty authored perfect innings in five of his first six frames and faced just two batters above the minimum through his first 19 outs. Pino, much like Cumpton, allowed only two earned runs on the night but was still pinned with a no-decision despite his strong showing.

After being held scoreless by Pino for 19 outs, the Indians matched power with power in the seventh inning by stringing together three straight extra-base knocks to erase Louisville’s early two-run homer and re-tie the score. Much as they have since the slugger’s debut, the Indians turned to the heavy-hitting Lambo to spark the offense, who was ready to answer the call as the game moved into the seventh inning.

Following a strikeout from 1B Matt Hague, Lambo watched two strikes sail by to quickly fall behind 0-2. However, once the slugger finally saw a pitch he liked, he rerouted the third offering of his at-bat to deposit the ball over the right-field wall for a solo homer that cut the Tribe’s deficit in half at 2-1. With the solo slam, the slugger also effectively snapped Pino’s 25.0 consecutive scoreless inning streak.

Still trailing 2-1, 3B Jared Goedert and CF Felix Pie followed suit of Lambo by each smashing an extra-base knock of their own, as the duo knocked back-to-back doubles that scored Goedert and tied the game at 2-2. The pair of two-baggers came as a clutch, welcome relief for the two Indians batters, with Goedert having not collected an extra-base since July 23 and Pie since July 12.

Although Indianapolis seemed to find new life behind the offensive surge, the momentum proved to be short lived when Louisville opened the floodgates against reliever RHP Ryan Reid (L, 0.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, BB) in the home half of the frame.

Following Cumpton’s departure after six frames, Reid took the hill and immediately allowed four runs on three hits and a walk without every recording an out. The right-hander quickly put himself in a hole by yielding a leadoff double to 1B Mike Hessman, and after inducing a come-backer from C Matt Kennely, Reid put himself into deeper trouble by unleashing an errant throw past third base that allowed Hessman to advance 90 feet.

Once Reid issued a walk to RF Josh Fellhauer on the next at-bat to load the bases, the reliever saw his outing take a turn for the worst as Henry Rodriguez smashed a pinch-hit two-run double that put the Bats ahead 4-2. Things then continued to spiral even further out of control when Reid was called for a balk to send Fellhauer trotting home to make it 5-2, and facing what proved to be his last batter of the contest, the right-hander surrendered an RBI single to CF Billy Hamilton that capped the big inning with Louisville on top 6-2.

Although the Indians were able to escape the frame without further damage, the home team’s extra fireworks proved to be essential as Indianapolis came roaring back in the final frame with three straight base hits from a trio of familiar faces in Lambo, Goedert and Pie. For the second time in the game, Lambo again flexed his muscles to spark a rally by smashing a leadoff solo shot to left for his second homer of the game to bring the Tribe within 6-3.

Lambo’s blast was his third in the last two contests, his IL-leading 17th since his debut with the Tribe on June 8 and the outfielder’s 31st of the season, which ranks as the most homers in all of Minor League Baseball in 2013. The longball also earned the slugger his league-best 46th RBI in 54 games with the Indians and moved Lambo into sole possession of fourth place with 92 RBI on the season.

Goedert then kept the offense rolling courtesy of a single to right and Pie followed by cashing in the runner with an RBI double to left to narrow the lead to 6-4. Unfortunately for the Tribe, as Pie stood on second with no outs and the deficit trimmed to two, Louisville called upon RHP Curtis Patch (SV, 1.0 IP, SO), who halted the rally in its tracks by retiring the next three batters to pick up his sixth save and close out a 4-2 Louisville victory.

For the Bats, right-hander Nick Christiani (W, 0.2 IP) picked up the win after rescuing Pino with 0.2 scoreless innings in the seventh frame.

Indianapolis and Louisville will conclude their brief two-game series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Slugger Field. The Tribe is scheduled to send their ace LHP Kris Johnson (9-4, 2.30 ERA) to the mound while the Bats are expected to counter with RHP Chad Reineke (8-9, 3.91 ERA).

The game will be carried on WNDE 1260 AM, and via iheartradio, a mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones with Howard Kellman and Will Flemming on the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:45 p.m.

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