Bats clinch third straight West title

Louisville beats Indianapolis, will face Yankees in playoffs

Ben Jukich went 6 2/3 innings for his seventh victory of the season. (Jessica Kovalcin/

By Danny Wild / | September 6, 2010 4:03 PM

The Louisville Bats clinched the West Division for the third straight year Monday, beating Indianapolis, 6-3, on the final day of the International League's regular season.

The Bats (80-64), will face the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in the first round of the IL postseason beginning Wednesday in a best-of-5 semifinal series. The winner will move on to battle for the Governors' Cup.

Louisville, which won the division in 2008 and '09, already had made the playoffs needed a win and a loss by the Columbus Clippers to claim the crown. The Clippers fell to the Toledo Mud Hens, 5-2, moments before the Bats sealed their win.

Columbus, with the loss, settled for the Wild Card and will take on the defending champion Durham Bulls in the first round.

The Bats received national attention, especially early in the season, when Cuban pitching sensation Aroldis Chapman began his first season with the Reds at Triple-A. The often erratic, hard-throwing lefty dazzled fans and scouts with his triple-digit fastballs, helping the Bats as a starter and, later on, from the bullpen. He finished ranked fifth in the league with 125 strikeouts and tied for sixth with nine wins, despite moving up to Cincinnati in August.

Matt Maloney (10-7, 3.34 ERA) also played a key role in the Bats' rotation that finished second in innings pitched and ERA (3.76) and third in wins.

Offensively, the Bats lived up to their name, leading the league with 160 home runs and total bases. Louisville ranked fourth with a .272 team batting average.

Left-handed starter Ben Jukich (7-4) held the Indians to three runs over 6 2/3 innings Monday. He struck out four and walked three, throwing 107 pitches. Major League veterans Micah Owings and Jared Burton recorded the final seven outs to seal the win, with Burton picking up his fourth save.

The Bats handed Jukich an early lead when Sean Henry hit a two-out, two-run single in the first and Dave Sappelt homered for the first time in 25 Triple-A games an inning later, a solo shot to left off Indians starter Brad Lincoln (7-5).

Todd Frazier and Sean Henry raced home on a fielding error by third baseman Akinori Iwamura in the third, putting the Bats ahead, 5-0. Frazier added his 17th home run in the seventh, a one-out solo drive off Corey Hamman for a 6-3 edge.

The Indians answered in the sixth when Pedro Ciriaco came home on a fielder's choice. Jonathan Van Every homered in the seventh, his 10th, before Kevin Melillo doubled home Brian Friday with two outs.

Lincoln was charged with five runs -- four earned -- on five hits and three walks over 2 1/3 innings in the loss.

Danny Wild is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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