Cincinnati Reds top prospect Robert Stephenson delivered an impressive performance Tuesday as the Louisville Bats evened the series with a 3-1 win against the Charlotte Knights.
Charlotte starter Erik Johnson also looked sharp, allowing only one unearned run in the loss.
Stephenson – ranked the 23rd-best prospect by Baseball America prior to the season – is a 22-year-old right-hander who made his fifth-career Triple-A start Tuesday night. He allowed only three hits through eight innings of scoreless ball while striking out 10 Knights on the evening.
The victory was the fourth in Stephenson’s Triple-A career.
Collin Balester took over for Stephenson in the ninth and earned his third save of the season despite some troubles. Balester allowed a run on three hits to squander the shutout but recorded a key double-play to seal the win.
Johnson battled pitch-for-pitch with Stephenson early in the game, allowing only an unearned run through six strong innings. The 2015 International League All-Star added two strikeouts to his league-leading total (107), and still ranks second in the IL with a 2.43 ERA among qualified starters.
A throwing error by Johnson on a sacrifice-bunt in the fifth inning led to the Bats only run against him. Hernan Iribarren came through with a sacrifice fly one batter after the error to give the Bats a 1-0 lead.
Louisville added a pair of insurance runs off Blake Smith in the eighth inning. Ramon Cabrera hit a double to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Josh Satin, who hit a two-RBI single just out of the reach of Knights shortstop Drew Garcia.
With runners on first and third in the top of the ninth, Matt Davidson grounded into a run-scoring double-play for the only Knights score of the game.
Leury Garcia scored the run after starting the inning with a lead-off single, one of six Charlotte hits on the day.
Jason Coats led the way with a 2-for-4 night, the only multihit effort by a Knight in the game.
The Knights and Bats will continue the four-game series Wednesday when Hector Noesi takes the mound for Charlotte against Louisville newcomer John Lamb.
Lamb was acquired by Cincinnati in a trade that sent Johnny Cueto to Kansas City earlier in the week, and the left-hander will make his Bats debut against the Knights in the 7:05 p.m. Wednesday matchup.