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    Photo courtesy Louisville Bats Facebook Page
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    The Louisville Bats appear to be on the way to their best season in four years. Unfortunately, though, that’s not saying much.

    Louisville entered the Triple-A All-Star break, which ends Thursday, with a 45-47 record. If the Bats continue at their current pace (with 52 games left in the regular season) they will likely eclipse their 68 wins of last year, their 69 in 2013 and their International League-worst 51 in 2012. And who knows, if they get hot, they may even finish above .500 for the first time since 2011, when they went 73-71 in Rick Sweet’s final season as manager.  

    The ultimate goal, though, is the team’s first playoff appearance since 2010.

    The good news is that Louisville, which is in its first season under manager Delino DeShields, isn’t that far away from .500 and isn’t that far out of the playoff race. Plus, it is coming off the franchise’s first nine-inning no-hitter (Sunday at Toledo). The Bats are 7.5 games behind Indianapolis (52-39), which has the league’s best record, in the IL West and 6.5 games behind wildcard-leader Norfolk (50-39).

    As the team’s All-Star break record indicates, Louisville has been pretty “even Stephen” so far. The Bats were 25-25 at the end of May and 39-40 at the end of June. Their longest winning streak has been four games (twice), while their longest losing streak has been five games.

    One of the biggest bright spots so far for Louisville has been its hitting. The Bats, who finished last year 10th in the IL in batting average (.257) and 12th in on-base percentage (.323), rank second in both categories (with a .265 BA and .334 OBP) at the break led by third baseman Irving Falu. Louisville’s lone Triple-A All-Star ranks fifth in the league in batting average (.309) and sixth in OBP (.375).

    However other than outfielder Yorman Rodriguez, who leads the team with nine home runs, the Bats lack power in their lineup. They rank 10th in the IL in both home runs (43) and RBIs (322). A season-ending knee injury to outfielder Steve Selsky (.317, 29 RBIs) has hurt, as has a disappointing start by former University of Louisville slugger Chris Dominguez (.203, five HRs, 26 RBIs). But, recent newcomer Brennan Boesch (.380, three HRs in 23 games) has been a welcome addition.

    Louisville’s biggest problems, however, have been on the mound.

    The Bats rank 13th in the 14-team IL in ERA (4.10) and WHIP (1.46) and are 12th in shutouts (four) and strikeouts (590). Louisville has been hamstrung by injuries to the parent Cincinnati Reds’ pitching staff, which has resulted in the call-ups of Jon Moscot (7-1) and highly-touted prospect Michael Lorenzen (2-1). Another highly-touted prospect, Robert Stephenson, has been great in his first two starts with the Bats, going 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA, but with the possibility that Reds ace Johnny Cueto could be moved before the MLB trading deadline, Stephenson’s stay could be brief too.

    Louisville pitching staff did end the pre-All-Star break on a high note, though, with its no-no. We’ll see if that’s a good omen for the Bats’ pitchers, as well as the team in general heading into the post-All-Star break, which begins with a four-game series against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Louisville Slugger Field. 

    Photo courtesy Louisville Bats Facebook Page

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