Indianapolis Indians 3, Columbus Clippers 2
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With two outs and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the 9th, and the Indians trailing the Clippers 2-1, C Eric Fryer came through with a line drive into the right-center field alley, to give the Indians the walk-off win at Victory Field tonight. Fryer was facing Columbus pitcher Nick Hagadone, who he had also faced during their time at the AA level, so he had some idea of what to expect from the lefty reliever. “He throws the ball pretty hard,” said Fryer, describing the at-bat in an interview after the game. “I just wanted to put a good swing on a fastball, and that’s what I was sitting on, and that’s what I got. I was looking away the whole time, and I was figuring that was where he was going to attack me, and sure enough, he did.”
Fryer’s heroics capped a game in which the Indians had been trailing since the 4th inning, and had been held to just one hit until the 8th. Clippers’ starter, Joe Martinez, pitched in 7 games for the Indians and 5 games for the Pirates in 2010. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians in January of this year, and has been pitching for the Clippers for all of this season. Tonight, Martinez had the Indy Indians’ number. He gave up a single to 2B Jordy Mercer in the bottom of the first, when Mercer grounded back through the infield, off the back of the mound, and into center field. With two outs in the 2nd, Martinez walked Fryer. Then Martinez retired the next 17 Indians’ batters in order — taking him from the end of the 2nd inning to one out in the 8th.
Meanwhile, Tribe starter Jeff Locke was working hard. He gave up 8 hits (the Clippers posted a total of 12 hits), but allowed only one run. Locke worked around runners on base in each of his 5 innings. The game began with Clippers’ SS Luis Valbuena lining to center field. He rounded first and was trying for a double, when the throw in from Hernandez to Mercer at second was in time for a tag out. Locke gave up another single in the 1st, and a single and a walk in the 2nd. The 3rd inning began with back-to-back singles by Valbuena and LF Tim Federoff, but Locke got out of that situation with a slowly rolling grounder to short, a strikeout, and a pop out.
RF Chad Huffman and 1B Nick Johnson had a pair of hits to begin the 4th inning, and that was the jam that Locke could not get out of cleanly. Huffman doubled into the right-center field gap, and moved to third on Johnson’s single to right. 2B Argenis Reyes dropped down a push bunt, which rolled along the first base line, and the sacrifice brought in Huffman from third base.
The 5th inning, Locke’s last, was his easiest. He walked 3B Jared Goedert with one out, then CF Jerad Head grounded to third, where 3B Pedro Alvarez began an around-the-horn double play, Alvarez to Mercer to 1B Matt Hague. Locke came back out to begin the 6th, but after giving up a walk and a single to Huffman, he was relieved by Jared Hughes. Locke finished with 96 pitches (57 strikes). Hughes worked his way out of the jam he was left, by getting Johnson to bounced to third, where Alvarez started another 5-4-3 double play. Then with a runner on third, Hughes got a ground out to end the inning.
Hughes also pitched the 7th inning, but began that frame by giving up a solo home run to Reyes. It was Reyes’ first homer of the season, and it gave the Clippers a 2-0 lead.
Steven Jackson pitched the 8th inning, allowing 2 hits, but one of those runners was erased in a third double play. This one was not around-the-horn, but was stared by Mercer, who bobbled the ball but still had time to make a lateral toss to SS Ciriaco, who had time to fire to Hague at first for the twin killing.
Fryer, the last Indians’ batter to reach base in the 2nd, was also the next Indians’ batter to reach base, when he took a low liner into center field with one out in the bottom of the 8th. That opened the floodgates (relatively speaking), as both RF Miles Durham and CF Gorkys Hernandez also singled. Durham beat out a grounder to deep short for an infield single, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base. Hernandez grounded through the left side of the infield, scoring Fryer from second base, to cut the Clippers’ lead to 2-1. That chased Martinez, but reliever Chen Lee got a pop out and a strikeout to end the rally.
Jackson started the top of the 9th by giving up a one-out single to Reyes. He was replaced by Justin Thomas, who got Valbuena to ground out, moving Reyes to second base. Then Thomas hit Federoff with a pitch. New Tribe reliever Aaron Heilman relieved Thomas, and it took him 4 pitches to strike out Goedert to end that frame without the Clippers scoring again.
Top of the 9th, and last chance for the Indians. With reliever Nick Hagadone on the mound for the Clippers, LF John Bowker began the inning by grounding to first, for what should have been an out. But 1B Johnson had trouble picking up the ball, and Bowker was able to beat the throw to the bag. Hague grounded to third, where 3B Goedert made the scoop, but his throw to second base was a little on the soft side. Bowker was forced out at second, but Hague was motoring and he beat the relay throw to first base. Alvarez lined out, for the second out of the inning. DH Jeff Clement sent a liner into left field near the foul line, surprising the Clippers, who were playing well over toward the right. The double put Hague on third and pinch-runner Brian Bocock took Clement’s place on second — two outs, the tying and winning runs in scoring position, and trailing 2-1, which is exactly the position the Indians were in last night. Last night, Hernandez popped up to end the game. But tonight, Eric Fryer ripped a liner between two Clippers outfielders, which rolled all the way to the wall. Both Hague and Bocock scored while the outfielders were still chasing after the ball, and Fryer found himself being pummelled for his walk-off single.
The Indians head out on the road for the next four days — two games against these Clippers in Columbus, then two in Toledo against the Mud Hens. When they return to Victory Field on Tuesday, they will play two more games against the Mud Hens. The season ends with a four-game series against the Louisville Bats, two here in Indianapolis, and two in Louisville.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Eric Fryer reached base safely in 3 of his 4 trips to the plate. His single in the 8th sparked that rally, and he came around to score the Indians’ first run. Then his walk-off single (it would have been a double if it were not for the walk-off win) plated the tying and winning runs.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: Three double plays, the pitcher’s best friend. Jeff Locke benefitted from the DP in the 5th, which went from 3B Pedro Alvarez to 2B Jordy Mercer to 1B Matt Hague. The Alvarez-to-Mercer-to-Hague DP in the 6th (which helped out both Locke and Jared Hughes), was made more difficult by the fact that Alvarez had to make a dive to his left to keep the ball from going into left field, then hop up and throw to second base. The 8th inning DP, Mercer-to-SS Pedro Ciriaco-to-Hague also had an extra degree of difficulty, because Mercer bobbled the ball as he was moving to his right. But Ciriaco was able to handle the lateral toss and turn quickly to fire to first, to the benefit of Steven Jackson.
As expected, both Alex Presley and Chase d’Arnaud were reactivated from the Disabled List by the Pirates today. In order to make room, Pedro Ciriaco was optioned back to the Indians — and he reported very quickly, getting into tonight’s game. Also optioned back to the Tribe was pitcher Aaron Thompson. Thompson had not been expected to spend much time with the Pirates after making that one spot start for them yesterday. Thompson has not yet been officially activated onto the Indians’ roster.
(photos by Nancy)