Audio: Bats wrap up the title
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A team supposedly devoid of heroes also happens to be one of the best in the Minors.
Adam Pettyjohn tossed eight strong innings and Rick Sweet tied a franchise record for wins as the Louisville Bats held off the visiting Durham Bulls, 6-3, to win the International League's West Division crown on Thursday.
"It's unbelievable," Pettyjohn said. "It's a credit to those guys in the locker room. We came together and I think more than anything, it was unselfish play. No one tried to be the hero, no one is worried about personal stats. We've just played great as a team."
Like it or not, Pettyjohn (14-5) was the hero Thursday in earning his 14th win. The veteran struck out a season-high seven and held the Bulls to three runs on seven hits over eight innings. Jon Adkins fanned a pair in the ninth inning for his 26th save to seal the division crown.
"It's been an absolute blast," said Sweet, who tied Dave Miley's managerial club record with his 296th victory. "We've got more to do."
It was the fourth IL division title and the first since 2003 for Louisville (82-51), which owns the best record in the league. The Bats, 17-3 in August, will face the eventual South Division champs -- either Durham or the Norfolk Tides -- in the playoffs next month.
"It's been a lot of fun," Sweet said. "It's amazing how many guys are involved in this. I've had text messages all day from the guys in Cincinnati saying, 'Get it done tonight.'"
Louisville did exactly that. Pettyjohn allowed a pair of runs in the first, but held the Bulls (68-65) to one run thereafter. The Bats scored twice to tie the game in the first and tacked on three more runs to take the lead in the fourth.
"It's been that way all year, we do all kinds of things well and get big hits," the skipper said. "It's just the way we've played. This started in April and these guys finished it off."
Louisville reeled off eight straight wins to begin the month before losing to the Columbus Clippers on Aug. 9. Pettyjohn said the final push started when Aaron Harang led the Bats to an 11-0 win in a rehab start against Toledo on Aug. 4.
"Harang came down and we got it done," he said. "That set the tone for that series and the month. We haven't looked back since."
Miley led the Bats to a 79-64 record in 2003 to capture Louisville's last division title.
"Miles is one of my best friends, I'm very close with Dave," Sweet said. "It's nice to be there with him, I'm honored to be equal with him."
Pettyjohn and Sweet agreed the season has been an enjoyable one. The Bats went 15-1 from Aug. 1-17 to take control of the West Division.
"We're enjoying the win and title, enjoying it as a team," said Pettyjohn. "It's been so much fun. To be able to clinch like that is so much fun, so we're going to celebrate."
Pettyjohn moved into second place all-time in franchise history for wins in a season and can tie Ralph Citarella's 1992 record with his next victory.
"It is a total credit to our offense and our bullpen," he said. "Every win I've had this year, the bullpen has come in and, without them, none of it is possible."
Sweet has 11 regular-season games remaining to move into first all-time in club wins.
"He's as much as a player's manager as there is out there," Pettyjohn said. "He takes care of his players and he's done a great job keeping us fresh. He's kept us focused."
Adkins struck out John Jaso swinging to end the game and officially commence a somewhat subdued on-field celebration. Less than half of the 8,503 fans at Louisville Slugger Ballpark remained to see the final out, and many of them quietly sat in anticipation.
Pettyjohn, who threw 79 of his 104 pitches for strikes, said he didn't mind watching the ninth from the dugout.
"It doesn't really matter to me, Sweet has done a great job and I never even questioned it," Pettyjohn said. "I was able to put our team in position to win, and the bullpen has been doing it all year."
Durham remained in first place in the South Division and will need to hold off Norfolk for the title. The Bulls and Bats could very well meet again in the first round in September.
"As long as we keep playing the way we are, we'll do just fine," Pettyjohn said. "I know we'll stay focused."
Drew Anderson and Kevin Parker lined consecutive run-scoring hits in the first to knot the game, 2-2. Craig Tatum, Danny Richar and Luis Bolivar each drove in a run in the fourth to give the Bats a 5-2 lead.
Wade Davis (3-2) allowed five runs on six hits and three walks over four innings to suffer the loss for Durham.
Danny Wild is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.