The Indianapolis Indians took advantage of a fistful of extra-base hits as well as 4 hits by 2B Jordy Mercer, to earn their first win of the 2012 season. The Tribe needed to hold off a 9th inning rally by the Toledo Mud Hens, but in doing so, they participated in what turned out to be the longest 9-inning game ever played at Fifth Third Field in Toledo: 3 hours, 57 minutes.
Toledo got going first, scoring one run in the bottom of the 1st. Indians’ starter Jeff Locke gave up a lead-off single to Toledo’s CF Quintin Berry, then a grounder forced Berry out at second, leaving RF Matt Young on first. 2B Eric Patterson singled, moving Young to second. Clean-up hitter 1B Ryan Strieby drove in Young with a double off the base of the right field wall, just inside the foul line. Tribe RF Brandon Boggs made a strong throw in from right field, but it did not reach the plate in time to get Young.
The Indians came right back in the top of the 2nd. Toledo started Drew Smyly had zipped through the top third of the Indians’ batting order in the 1st, but the Tribe rallied with two outs in the 2nd. 1B Jeff Clement was on first base after a walk, when Brandon Boggs smoked a line drive over the head of the Toledo right fielder and off the right field wall. Clement raced all the way around from first base to score, and Boggs reached third base for a triple. Moments later, Smyly threw a wild pitch that sailed to the backstop. He didn’t cover the plate as his catcher Bryan Holaday scrambled after the ball, though it might not have mattered. Boggs scored easily, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead. Two doubles followed — three extra-base hits in a row — to give the Indians another run. C Eric Fryer lined a double into the right field corner, and he scored when LF Gorkys Hernandez smacked his double into the right-center field gap. That chased Toledo starter Smyly from the game. Reliever Brooks Brown ended the inning with a ground out, leaving the Indians with a 3-1 lead.
Locke was more effective in the 2nd inning. He gave up a single to SS Argenis Diaz to lead off the 2nd inning, then retired the next three Mud Hens in order. The Mud Hens scored again in the 3rd, on a pair of doubles by Young and Strieby. Locke got out of the inning by getting former Indy Indian DH Brad Eldred to ground out, and striking out LF Jerad Head. In the 4th inning, Locke had to work out of another jam. Diaz again led off with a single, then after two fly outs, Diaz moved to third on Berry’s double into right field. Locke got Young to ground out to second to end the inning and leave the two runners stranded. That was the end of Locke’s night. With only 4 innings of work, he was not eligible for the win, even though he left the game with the lead. He threw 81 pitches (57 strikes), and gave up 8 hits and 2 runs, while striking out 4 Toledo batters.
Brandon Boggs kept the Indians 2 runs ahead of the Hens when he led off the top of the 4th with a solo homer blasted over the right field wall. The Tribe tried another 2-out rally in the 4th, but it started with a scary moment. SS Chase d’Arnaud was hit in the left side of the head, right on the helmet’s ear-flap, by a pitch from Brown. D’Arnaud fell to the ground and took a few moments to get back up again. He appeared to be trying to convince Indians’ manager Dean Treanor and trainer Bryan Housand to let him remain in the game, but they were having none of it. After the game, Boggs said that d’Arnaud appeared to be mostly ok, though a little woozy.
Brian Friday came into the game to pinch-run for d’Arnaud, and eventually took over at shortstop for him too. With Friday on first, Jordy Mercer and CF Starling Marte hit back-to-back singles. Marte’s single didn’t get past second base, but Toledo 2B Patterson was a heartbeat too slow, allowing the speedy Marte to reach first base ahead of the ball. 1B Strieby alertly spun and fired to the plate, where he was able to catch Friday trying to score.
Brandon Boggs started another rally for the Indians again in the 6th. He led off with a grounder to short, which should have been a fairly easy out, but SS Diaz juggled the ball, then dropped it, and Boggs was safe on the error. Boggs stole second base, then advanced to third base on Eric Fryer’s single just over the Toledo shortstop’s head. Gorkys Hernandez walked to load the bases with Indians. Brian Friday blasted a long fly ball down the left field line, higher than the foul pole…. but even after Treanor insisted on the umpires conferring, it was still just a very long foul ball. Friday got another chance, though, and this time he lined a single into left field, scoring both Boggs from third and Fryer from second. Mercer followed with another single, driving in Hernandez to increase the Indians’ lead to 7-2. The Mud Hens changed pitchers again, and the new reliever Luke Putkonen began by hitting Starling Marte with a pitch (on his left shoulder) to load the bases again. All three were left on base, though, as a grounder to third forced out Friday at the plate, and two strikeouts ended the inning.
Daniel Moskos was the first pitcher out of the bullpen for the Indians, taking over for Locke to begin the bottom of the 5th. Moskos walked the first batter he faced, then retired the next three. He got into trouble in the 6th though, hitting 3B Audy Ciriaco (brother of former Indian Pedro Ciriaco) with a pitch, and walking Berry and Young. With two outs and the bases loaded, veteran reliever Doug Slaten relieved Moskos. Slaten gave up a single to Patterson, which allowed Ciriaco to score from third. A ground out ended that rally without any further runs scoring.
Slaten remained in the game to pitch the 7th inning. Brad Eldred led off that inning with a tremendous blast off the light pole behind the left field wall, his first home run of the season. Slated retired the next three batters in order.
The Indians got that run back in the top of the 8th, with two more extra-base hits. Jordy Mercer doubled into the right field corner, his third hit of the game. With two outs and lefty Fu-Te Ni on the mound for Toledo, the Mud Hens elected to walk right-handed batter 3B Nick Evans, so that Ni could pitch to left-handed Jeff Clement. That proved to be a mistake for the Hens. Clement slipped a grounder just inside the right field line, past the diving 1B Strieby, and all the way to the wall near the visiting bullpen. The double let Mercer score from second base, giving the Indians an 8-4 lead.
That run proved to be the winning run for the Indians. They came close to scoring again in the top of the 9th, after Boggs again reached base on an error, this one by 3B Ciriaco. Fryer walked, and after two strikeouts, Mercer picked up his fourth hit of the game, a single into right field. Boggs tried to score from second base, but the throw in from right field was on target, and Boggs was out at home.
Jose Diaz made his Indians’ debut in the bottom of the 8th. He gave up two walks and allowed Berry to steal two bases, but did not let him score. Tim Wood took the mound for the Tribe in the 9th, and was responsible for the last-minute Toledo rally. He was greeted by Brad Eldred’s second home run of the night, again to left field. The next batter, Head, reached base on a throwing error by Evans at third. Diaz singled, and a ground out put both runners into scoring position with one out. Head scored from third on a sacrifice fly, and Diaz scored on Berry’s single through the hole and into left field. That brought the Mud Hens to within one run of tying the game. Wood made things a little too interesting by bouncing a wild pitch off the plate, putting Berry on second base. But then Wood got an easy ground out to second to end the game and hold on to the Indians’ win.
Doug Slaten was credited with the win. He pitched 1.1 innings, allowing Eldred’s first homer and another hit, with one strikeout. Jordy Mercer went 4-for-6 with three singles and a double. Jeff Clement, Brandon Boggs, and Eric Fryer had 2 hits each; Boggs’ two hits were a triple and a homer. Boggs and Brian Friday both had 2 RBI.
The Indians play a late afternoon game on Easter Sunday, beginning at 5 pm.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: Jordy Mercer upped his average to .500 with three singles and a double, and Brandon Boggs had the two biggest hits of the game — a triple and a homer, with an RBI for each. After the game, Boggs was asked if he thought about the possibility of hitting for the cycle, since he had already had the two toughest parts of that feat. “You can never think cycle or you are never going to get it. You just work on your at-bat, work on your approaches and it will come when it comes.”
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: In the bottom of the 6th, Argenis Diaz began the inning with a grounder to short. SS Brian Friday made the tough stop, then an off-balance throw to first, where 1B Jeff Clement made a back-handed catch in the dirt in time for the out.
Seven of the Indians’ 13 hits were for extra bases.
Six more days until the Indians’ home opener.