LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As the Louisville Bats entered game one of their third consecutive Governors' Cup playoffs on Wednesday night, they knew a win would not come easy. Champions of the International League West Division, the Bats were paired up against the Durham Bulls, who ended the regular season with an impressive 88-55 record and a comfortable 16 game lead over their nearest IL South competitor.
Louisville also came into the game with an unsuccessful playoff history against Durham. The two clubs have met four times in the first round of the playoffs (1998, 2003, 2008, 2009), with the Bulls coming out on top each time. Wednesday night was the first time since the 2003 that the Bats have taken game one from the Bulls. But the Bats, who were 13 games out of first place in the IL West the last time they faced the Bulls on July 1, were up to the fight as they pulled off an 8-4 win.
Durham jumped out to an early lead in the second as Nevin Ashley singled to plate Joe Dillon, who led off the inning on a hit by pitch and advanced to second on a Leslie Anderson ground out.
The Bats answered in a big way, knocking in four runs of their own in the bottom half of the second. Todd Frazier led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on Sean Henry's single up the middle. Costanzo then drove in his first run of the game on a line drive single that scored Frazier. A sacrifice fly by Devin Mesoraco brought in Henry from third, giving the Bats a 2-1 edge. With two outs, Kris Negron tripled and Dave Sappelt doubled, each producing a run and giving Louisville a 4-1 advantage.
Anderson cut the Bats' lead to two in the fourth with a line drive single to left field. The hit scored Dillon who was standing on second because of an Eric Eymann throwing error. It was Eymann's first error since joining the Bats last month.
Hanging on by only a two-run lead going into the bottom of the sixth, Costanzo came to the aid of Louisville in a big way with a 380-foot, three-run homer onto the right field patio deck. It was Costanzo's first homer in a Louisville uniform and gave the Bats a comfortable 7-2 lead.
Anderson tried to keep the Bulls within striking distance in the seventh with a two-run shot to right field, but it was not enough.
Dave Sappelt, Henry, and Costanzo had multi-hit games for the Bats. They combined for eight of the Louisville's 10 hits on the night and five of the team's eight RBI.
The Bulls were led by Anderson, who went 2-3 with three RBI and a run scored.
Bats starter Chad Reineke (1-0, 3.86), who lost his last two contests in the regular season, tossed seven solid innings to earn the win. He gave up four runs, three earned, on five hits and struck out four.
The Louisville bullpen put on an absolutely stellar performance, as they held Durham scoreless over the last two innings. Daniel Ray Herrera gave up only one hit in the eighth, while Jared Burton gave up a walk and recorded a strikeout to close the game.
Richard De Los Santos (0-1, 12.60), who ended the regular season with a league-leading 14 wins, was battered by the Bats in the loss. He gave up seven runs on eight hits in five innings of work. De Los Santos walked three and struck out three.
The Bats will fight for another home win and a two-game advantage over the Bulls on Thursday night at Louisville Slugger Field. LHP Tom Cochran (0-0, 6.75) will get the ball for the Louisville against RHP Aneury Rodriguez (6-5, 3.80) of Durham. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.
Fans can enjoy $1 Budweiser and Bud Light from 5-7 p.m., along with live music by Timmy and Sharfe on the Overlook Deck.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.