Indians Win Home Finale, But A Playoff Spot Is Not At The End Of Their Rainbow
Indianapolis Indians 8, Louisville Bats 7
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The Indianapolis Indians won their final home game at Victory Field tonight, cutting short the Louisville Bats’ rally in the top of the 9th. But as the Tribe was winning, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs were also winning, 3-0 over the Buffalo Bison. That eliminates the Indians from the Wild Card race. Lehigh Valley has a 78-64 record with 2 games left to play, and the Indians have a 75 – 67 record with 2 games left, too far out to catch up. The win does give the Indians a lock on second place in the International League West Division, leaving the Bats too far behind the Indians to catch up.
The start of tonight’s game was delayed by a pre-game sudden downpour. Around 5:25 pm, the dark clouds that had moved into the downtown Indianapolis area suddenly opened up. The Victory Field grounds crew anticipated the storm and already had the tarp on the field. After a few minutes, while the rain continued to pour down, the sun came out. The rain came down harder and the sun shone brighter, with a hazy rainbow appearing over the downtown buildings behind the outfield. The rain did not last long, and since the tarp was down before the rain came, there was minimal work to be done on the infield when it was taken up. After the pre-game ceremonies, the game began about 30 minutes late.
Fireworks were scheduled for after the game, but the game began with a different kind of fireworks. Nelson Figueroa made the start for the Tribe, but his third start was nothing like his first two starts (three runs over 16 innings, with a complete game on August 29th). Bats’ CF Quintin Berry opened the game with an infield single to short. Tribe SS Pedro Ciriaco made a diving stop to keep the ball from going into the outfield, but his off-balance throw to first base was wide of the bag, and Berry was safe. After a strikeout, Figueroa walked LF Denis Phipps, then RF Danny Dorn ripped a double down the right field line, plating both Berry and Phipps to give the Bats a 2-0 lead.
The Indians answered with 3 runs in the bottom of the frame as they batted around. Ciriaco led off with a tremendous smash off the base of the center field wall, racing around the bases to slide headfirst into third with a triple. LF Ryan Ludwick grounded a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Ciriaco easily. 1B Matt Hague lined a single into center field, for his 163rd hit of the season, moving Ludwick to second base. Bats’ starter Travis Wood struck out 3B Pedro Alvarez, then gave up another line drive into center field by RF Miles Durham. Durham drove in Ludwick from second base to tie the score. C Wyatt Toregas grounded to third, but Bats’ 3B Mike Constanzo had trouble picking up the ball, and everyone was safe — bases loaded with two outs. CF Gorkys Hernandez, who has been the master of clutch hitting in the past few weeks, worked the count full before taking ball four to force in the go-ahead run. Figueroa struck out to end the inning with the bases still full, but the Indians had the 3-2 lead.
The lead did not last long. The Bats got to Figueroa in the 2nd inning also. Costanzo lined a single into left field to open the inning. 2B Jose Castro grounded to second, for what should have been a double play. Constanzo was out at second, but the throw from Ciriaco to first was again wide of the bag, and Castro was safe at first. It turned out to be a key play that served to extend the inning for the Bats. Pitcher Travis Wood doubled down the left field line, allowing Castro to score. Berry grounded to short, where Ciriaco whirled and threw to third base. 3B Alvarez’s tag on Wood, who was advancing from second base, was late, but Alvarez wisely kept his glove on Wood. So, when Wood overslid the bag, Alvarez’s glove was still there, and Wood was out. If the double play had been made, that could have been the end of the inning, without a run scoring. Instead, one run was in, and the inning continued. Berry stole second base, and SS Kristopher Negron singled into left field, driving in Berry. Phipps doubled into center field, and Negron scored the third run of the inning, giving the Bats a 5-2 lead.
That lead didn’t last long either. The Indians came right back with 2 runs in the bottom of the 2nd inning to tie the score again. Ciriaco’s bunt attempt popped up and landed on the third base side of the infield. Both Wood and 3B Constanzo charged for the ball, which hit the grass and stuck there. When they got to the ball, they were both in each other’s way, and the speedy Ciriaco was at first base by the time they got themselves sorted out. Mercer grounded to third, and this play too should have been a double play. Ciriaco was out on the force play at second, but this time the Indians were the beneficiaries of a poor throw pulling the first baseman off the bag, and Mercer was safe at first. Mercer dashed around the bases to score on Ludwick’s double all the way to the wall in the right-center field gap. Ludwick came around to score from second on Hague’s second hit of the game (#164 of the season), a sinking liner into center field. Alvarez also slipped a single through the right side of the infield, but both he and Hague were left on base when the inning ended. Tie score, 5-5.
Figueroa was sent to the showers after two innings of work. He had given up 5 runs on 6 hits and a walk, and had thrown just 53 pitches (37 strikes). He was not involved in the decision, since the Indians’ bullpen was able to shut down the Bats’ offense for most of the rest of the game. Garrett Olson came on in relief of Figueroa and pitched 3 scoreless innings. He gave up a single to 1B Neftali Soto in the 3rd and a double to Negron in the 4th, then walked Phipps in the 4th and C Yasmani Grandal in the 5th. All those runners were left on base.
Aaron Heilmann retired the Bats in order in the 6th and 7th innings, aided by three outstanding plays behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Miles Durham both made running catches on fly balls to the outfield. Then the Indiana native Heilman stretched out his 6′ 5″-ness to make a leaping catch of a high chopper over the mound, then tossed to first for the out.
The Indians’ offense also took a break after the first two innings. Ludwick had the only hit over the next four innings, with a soft line drive into left field for a 2-out single in the 4th. Hague walked on four pitches after Ludwick’s hit, but both were left on base. Hernandez walked again in the 5th, and he too was left stranded.
Bats’ reliever Nick Christiani took over on the mound for the bottom of the 7th, and that’s when the Tribe bats woke up again. Hague got the rally started with a walk. Once again, a double play that should have been did not happen. This time, Alvarez grounded to second base, with a scoop made behind the second base bag. The flip by SS Negron went wide of second base and dribbled into the infield, giving the Indians runners on first and second. Durham dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners both into scoring position. That made it easy for both Hague and Alvarez to score on Toregas’ double into the deepest part of the left-center field gap, breaking the tie to give the Indians a 7-5 lead. Hernandez slipped a single up the middle and into center field, and Toregas hustled around from second to add another run — which turned out to be the insurance the Tribe would need.
Jared Hughes pitched the top of the 8th for the Indians. He gave up a lead-off double to Grandal, then retired the next three batters in order, keeping a hold on the 3-run lead. The Tribe went down in order in the bottom of the 8th.
Justin Wilson took over on the mound for the top of the 9th, and he quickly got into trouble. With one out, Wilson gave up back-to-back singles to Negron and Phipps. He struck out Dorn for the second out of the inning. Soto grounded to third, and Alvarez charged in to make the play, but dropped the ball on the transfer from glove to hand. It was ruled an infield single, and it loaded the bases with Bats and brought the winning run to the plate. Wilson worked the count full on Grandal, then threw ball four, forcing in a run. That cut the Indians’ lead to 8-6. Manager Dean Treanor came out to the mound, and surprised everyone by not pulling Wilson immediately. Treanor stood bill-to-bill with Wilson, talking as Wilson nodded, then Treanor went back to the dugout, leaving Wilson on the mound. It didn’t work, though. Wilson threw four balls to Costanzo, forcing in another run and bringing the Bats within one run of the Indians. Again Treanor came out to the mound, and this time he had no choice but to pull Wilson. Danny Moskos came on to replace Wilson. Moskos needed only 2 pitches to get Castro to ground to third base. This time Alvarez made the scoop and throw easily, and the Indians had held on for the 8-7 win.
The Indians will travel to Louisville tomorrow, to finish up their season with two more games against the Bats.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Wyatt Toregas’ 2-RBI double, which drove in two runs to break the 5-5 tie. Toregas has been on the Disabled List for about all of August, and has not started a game since mid-July. It was a great way to get back into the line-up. “My previous two at bats I had been pounded hard inside and I wasn’t getting ahead there,” said Toregas after the game. “My next at bat I was pretty much looking inside the whole time because I figured if it worked twice, they’d do it again. He threw me a sinker in there and I was able to get the barrel on it and get the runs in.”
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: Three plays in the top of the 6th. First, CF Gorkys Hernandez ran back and to his left to make the catch on a fly ball by P Jerry Gil. Next, Aaron Heilman leaped into the air to catch a high chopper and make the play at first to get out Quintin Berry. Then, RF Miles Durham raced to his left, and in full extension, caught the fly ball off the bat of Kristopher Negron.
Before the game, the Indians handed out their end-of-the-year awards.
Most Valuable Player: 1B Matt Hague
Hague leads the Indians in games played (140), at-bats (529), runs scored (69), hits (164), total bases (243), doubles (37), and walks (47). His hit total is now just two hits behind DT Cromer’s 166 hits in 1999, and it’s the 4th highest number of hits for an Indians’ batter in the past 40 years. He was named to both the mid-season and post-season International League All-Star teams. He was the Player of the Month in June, when he hit .402 with 11 doubles and 17 RBI.
Rookie of the Year: RHP Jared Hughes
Hughes joined the Indians in mid-June. While he was a starter in AA Altoona, Hughes pitched entirely out of the bullpen for the Indians. In 35 relief appearances, he has earned a 3-1 record and earned a 2.11 ERA. He has pitched 42.2 innings and allowed 35 hits, but just 10 runs, with 18 walks and 45 strikeouts. In July, Hughes made 11 appearances and allowed 3 runs in 15 innings (1.80 ERA). In his past 10 appearances, since August 15th, he has allowed just one run over 10.1 innings (it was a home run) and struck out 11 batters.
Most Valuable Starting Pitcher: LHP Justin Wilson
Wilson started the season as a starting pitcher. In 21 starts, he earned an 8-7 record and a 4.24 ERA. He gave up 111 hits and 52 earned runs in 110.1 innings, with 78 strikeouts. He moved to the bullpen in August, and added 2 more wins in 9 relief appearances, allowing 5 runs on 10 hits in 14 innings, with 16 more strikeouts. His 10 wins is currently 5th in the International League.
Relief Pitcher of the Year: LHP Justin Thomas
Thomas has a league-leading 62 appearances for the season, with the Tribe all year. In 68 innings of relief, he has allowed 30 earned runs on 65 hits, with 24 walks and 56 strikeouts. He has an 8-2 record and a 3.97 ERA. He had a particularly strong August, with just 4 runs allowed in 15 innings (2.40 ERA).
Defensive Player of the Year: CF Gorkys Hernandez
Hernandez was named “Best Outfield Arm” in the International League by Baseball America. He has 11 outfield assists this season, a career best for him. He has made just 4 errors in the outfield, playing almost exclusively in center field for the Indians. His defense improved over the season, as did his clutch hitting. He has a .282 average with one homer and 40 RBI, and he is tied for the league lead with 9 triples.
August Player of the Month: INF Jordy Mercer
After hitting .177 in July, Mercer completely turned things around in August, when he hit .313, with 9 doubles, a triple, 3 home runs, and 15 RBI. Those 3 homers came in 3 consecutive games earlier this week. That gives him a total of 6 homers since joining the Indians in late June, plus 13 homers while with the Altoona Curve.
(photos by Nancy)