Bats Sunday Notebook [Sports]

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The Louisville Bats broke a prolonged losing streak Saturday night with a 3-2 ten inning, walk off win Saturday night against the Columbus Clippers. It was the first and only win for the Bats of the week after a rough 1-7 road trip that saw them lose the final seven in a row. Time to get you caught up on everything Bats with the freshest edition of YOUR Bats Sunday Notebook.

Still Important

Despite their abysmal 49-80 record headed into the final two weeks of the season, the Bats still have plenty of meaningful game remaining. Louisville will play Columbus eight more times over their final fourteen games. With Columbus battling for the wild card (they currently trail Pawtucket by 2.5 games), the Bats have a chance to play spoiler to close the 2012 season.

“While that’s true, it shouldn’t matter,” Bats manager David Bell said. “You should go out and play as hard as you can every day. We have a couple weeks here that could be really important for our team and for a lot of individual players.”

Hoover wins Mary E. Barney Award

Before Saturday’s game Bats right hander JJ Hoover was awarded the Mary E. Barney award, which recognizes the team’s most valuable player. Hoover has been absolutely dominant for Louisville this season. In 28 games, the Pittsburgh native is 4-0 with 12 saves and a 1.29 ERA.

“We all know the importance of having a guy on your team that can close a game,” Bell said. “(Hoover) has done that consistently all year and has done it in a dominating matter. He’s having a great year; the award is well deserved.”

Past recipients of the Mary E. Barney Award include Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, and Devin Mesoraco.

Soto continuing domination

First baseman Neftali Soto has been a cornerstone of the Bats’ offense all season long. He’s continued to be just that over the past three weeks. Soto has hit safely in 19 of his last 22 games and has ten doubles, one homer, and four RBI to go along with a .391 average during that stretch. Soto leads the team in games (107), at-bats (412), hits (105), runs (50), doubles (27), home runs (14), RBIs (55), and total bases (175). Soto also leads the team with 28 multi-hit games, including four three-hit games.

Perez Watch

While Soto has been hot, Felix Perez could possibly be the hottest Bat of all. Perez has hit safely in 44 of 59 games since the start of June and is hitting .335 with three homers, 19 doubles, and 23 RBIs during that stretch. He also has 20 multi-hit games during that stretch, including a four-hit performance June 26. Perez had  a season-high nine game hit streak August 5-14.

Despite entering play on May 15 with a .196 batting average, Perez now leads the team with a .298 average, a spike of 102 points. Perez has a career-high 103 hits on the season, good for second on the team. Perez had a career batting average of .279 in two seasons in the Reds’ organization.

Christiani finishing strong

Right handed reliever Nick Christiani is having a strong finish to his 2012 campain. After struggling in the month of July, Christiani has been flawless thus far in August. In six appearances, Christiani has given up just six hits and an unearned run in 8-2/3 innings of work. Overall this season, Christiani is 2-5 with a save and a 3.05 ERA in 62 total innings pitched. His 48 appearances are tied for fourth-most in the league behind teammate Travis Webb (50).

Rehabbing Reds

Louisville currently has two Cincinnati Reds relievers going through rehab stints—right hander Nick Masset and lefty Bill Bray. Both have been good in their time on the mound.

Masset has made five total appearances and started two times for Louisville. In 6-2/3 innings, Masset has allowed just three hits and given up three runs. He has struck out nine and walked just one. In his most recent appearance, a relief outing Saturday night, Masset used just seven pitches to get through a perfect eighth inning.

“(Masset) has looked good every time,” Bell said. “He’s really getting himself ready.”

Bray has been just as good in his time with the Bats. The 6-foot-3 lefty from Virginia has been battling a bad back the entire season  but seems to be getting back to full health. He made two relief appearances in Charlotte and pitched a scoreless inning in each, giving up one hit, striking out two and walking one.

“I think he’s gaining confidence as we go,” Bell said of the hard-throwing left hander. “Both times he’s pitched in the last week were pretty much perfect.”

Bray has appeared in just fourteen games with the Reds this season and has given up five runs on six hits in just 8-2/3 innings of work.

Setting Records (In a bad way)

With 14 games left in the 2012 season, the Bats will be looking to avoid a few not-so-good records. While they’ve already secured the first losing season for the club in four years, the Bats are ten losses away from 90. If they make it that far, they will join the 1991 Redbirds as the only two teams since baseball returned to Louisville in 1982 to lose at least 90 games. That Redbirds team finished a club-record 30 games back in the division. The Bats go into play Sunday 27-1/2 games back of first place Indianapolis, whom they play five more times this season.

Get out the rye bread and mustard…

Despite their horrible win-loss record, the Bats have hit seven grand slams as a team this year. That ties them with the 1984, 2000, and 2007 teams for the franchise record. Neftali Soto and Dioner Navarro have each hit two slams, leaving them both one short of Brandon Larson’s three slams in 2002.

The Road Ahead

There are just two weeks and 14 games remaining in the 2012 season for the Bats.  After finishing their four-game set with the Clippers on Tuesday, there will be just four home games remaining. So, if you haven’t been out to Louisville Slugger Field to see the Bats play this season, time is running out. You can purchase tickets by calling (502) 212-2287 or going to batsbaseball.com