A soft liner into right field off the bat of DH Nick Evans gave the Indianapolis Indians the walk-off win tonight at Victory Field. It was a great way to wrap up the Tribe’s home opener, which was played in front of a record Opening Day crowd. Daniel McCutchen was the winning pitcher, earning his first win of the season.
The Tribe was trailing the Mud Hens by a score of 2-1 going into the bottom of the 8th. Former Indian (and Indiana native) Chris Bootcheck, on the mound in relief for Toledo, had retired the Indians in order in the 7th inning, but began the bottom of the 8th by walking Tribe 2B Brian Friday. A fly out and a pop out gave Bootcheck two outs, and he was replaced with reliever Matt Hoffman, as the Mud Hens thought to take advantage of bringing in a lefty pitcher to face the left-handed 1B Jeff Clement. That idea backfired, when Clement slipped Hoffman’s first pitch through the hole on the right side of the infield for a single. Clement was replaced by pinch-runner Miles Durham. RF Brandon Boggs also singled off Hoffman, with a line drive into left field. Friday, who was off and running on the pitch, rounded third and scored easily, tying the score at 2-2. Hoffman was replaced with another reliever, Jose Ortega. Ortega finished the inning by striking out C Eric Fryer.
Ortega came back out for the 9th inning, with the score tied. With one out, LF Gorkys Hernandez grounded to third. It should have been a relatively easy out, but Toledo 3B Justin Henry rushed, and airmailed the ball way over his first baseman’s head. The ball sailed into the stands, so Hernandez was also awarded second base. CF Starling Marte was intentionally walked, in order to set up a possible double play situation. That backfired on the Mud Hens too. Friday hit a slow dribbly ball towards third base, catching Ortega and Henry a bit off guard. By the time Ortega could get to the ball, he had no play, and the bases were full of Indians. SS Jordy Mercer popped out in foul territory for the second out of the inning. That brought up Nick Evans. He took a 2-1 pitch over the head of Strieby and into right field, allowing Hernandez to score the winning run from third.
Evans also drove in the Indians’ first run, back in the 1st inning. With two outs, Mercer took a 4-pitch walk from Toledo starter Andy Oliver. Evans ripped a long fly ball into the deep part of left field. It was just short of going over the fence, but instead bounced on the narrow top of the wall and rebounded over towards left field. Evans ended up on second base, and Mercer raced around to score.
Brad Lincoln made the start for the Indians and had a strong outing, after a shaky 1st inning. He gave up a lead-off single to Toledo CF Quintin Berry to begin the game. Berry stole second on the first pitch to the next batter, 2B Eric Patterson. Patterson grounded out, moving Berry to third. Lincoln hit Strieby with a pitch (arm) to put runners on the corners. Former Indy Indian DH Brad Eldred drove in Berry with a line drive single into left field.
After he got that out of his system, Lincoln settled down. He got a strikeout and a tapper back to the mound to end the first inning. Then he went on to retire the Mud Hens in order for the next four innings — 14 batters in a row. Lincoln made two very nice plays himself during those innings. In the 2nd, he made a leaping stab of former Indian SS Argenis Diaz’s high bouncer, and easily threw out Diaz at first. In the 3rd, Patterson hit a hard grounder just inside the first base line. Jeff Clement dove for the ball and stopped it, though the ball bounced off the heel of his glove and dribbled into foul territory. Clement scrambled after it, while Lincoln raced to cover first and caught Clement’s off-balance throw for the out.
Lincoln gave up a long hit to Berry to begin the 6th inning. Berry hit a long liner into left field, but Gorkys Hernandez chased down the ball and made the throw to third in time to tag out Berry. Two more outs got Lincoln through that inning without any damage, but more trouble came in the 7th. The Mud Hens began with three consecutive hits off Lincoln. Eldred smacked a double to the base of the center field wall, and RF Matt Young dropped down a perfectly placed bunt single, moving Eldred to third. LF Jerad Head tied the score with a sharp grounder to third which Ferrell managed to stop with a dive, but when he came up, he had no play, and Eldred had scored the go-ahead run, 2-1. With runners on first and second, Henry dropped down a bunt along the third base line. Lincoln made the quick stop and grab, then whirled and fired to third base in time to force out Young, who was advancing from second. Diaz also tried to bunt, but his tapper went right toward the mound, where Lincoln again made a grab and a whirl, this time throwing to second base to begin a 1-4-3 (Lincoln to Friday to Clement) double play, ending the inning.
The Indians also faced a pitcher who had settled down after the two teams traded runs in the 1st. Oliver kept the Tribe scoreless for the next 5 innings. Unlike Lincoln, though, Oliver did allow a few Tribe batters to reach base — then left them stranded. He gave up a walk to Hernandez in the 3rd and a pair of two-out singles to Hernandez and Marte in the 5th. Oliver walked Mercer and Clement in the 6th, then struck out three other Indians’ batters in that inning. When he left in favor of Bootcheck to begin the 7th, Oliver had allowed one run on 3 hits and 4 walks, and had struck out 9 Indians’ batters.
Lincoln finished after 7 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, with no walks, and struck out 3 batters. Daniel McCutchen took over for the last two innings. He gave up a walk in the 8th, and struck out 3 Mud Hens. In the 9th, with the score tied again, Eldred reached base when Mercer bobbled his grounder at short. McCutchen got Young to ground right to Friday at second, who began a 4-6-3 (Friday to Mercer to Clement) double play. McCutchen was still the pitcher of record in the bottom of the 9th, so he got the win. Reliever Tim Wood was warming up in the bullpen and would have come into the game if it had gone into extra innings.
The win brings the Indians back to .500, with a 4-4 record. That is also the Mud Hens’ record, and the two teams are tied for second place, behind the Columbus Clippers (6-3) in the International League Western Division.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Nick Evans’ game-winning single in the bottom of the 9th, along with his RBI double in the 1st, accounting for 2 of the Indians’ 3 runs.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: The play made by Gorkys Hernandez and Jeremy Farrell in the top of the 6th, throwing Quintin Berry out at third. Berry laced a line drive toward the left field corner, as Hernandez ran toward the foul line to field it. But as Hernandez was running toward foul territory, the ball curved foul (it was fair when it passed third base, so was still a fair ball) and hit the retaining wall in foul territory. The ricochet carried the ball over and past Hernandez, who had to reverse directions and chase the ball well toward center field — about 50 feet from the foul line. Berry could see Hernandez chasing the ball, so he put down his head and kept running. He had rounded second and was heading for third when Hernandez got to the ball. Hernandez’s throw to third came in hard and fast. 3B Farrell made the catch a few feet from the bag, then made a sprawling dive to tag Berry just before he reached third, for the out.
Both Chase d’Arnaud and Jake Fox remain on the DL. D’Arnaud was in the dugout, and Fox might have been also, though I couldn’t see him.
Mayor Greg Ballard was on hand to throw out the first pitch. Pirates’ president Frank Coonelly was also at the game, and made an “I love Indianapolis” speech before the game.