Defensive problems in the bottom of the 12th inning doomed the Indians, and allowed the Columbus Clippers to pick up the walk-off win for the second day in a row.
On a chilly night at Huntington Park in Columbus, the Indians and Clippers took a 4-4 tie from the 5th inning until the bottom of the 12th. With reliever Tim Wood on the mound for the Tribe, lead-off batter (and former Indy Indian) C Luke Carlin slipped a single into center field. Wood struck out the next batter. With 2B Cord Phelps at the plate, Wood threw a wild pitch that zipped past Tribe C Eric Fryer all the way to the backstop. That moved Carlin to second base, and ball four pitched to Phelps gave the Clippers two base runners. Pinch-hitter Chad Huffman replaced Carlin on second base. LF Matt LaPorta lifted a bloopy fly into short center field that should have been an out to held the runners in place. But as 2B Brian Friday ran back and CF Starling Marte raced in, a miscommunication let the ball drop in between them, loading the bases. 1B Russ Canzier was the Clippers’ hero with his line drive into left field. Huffman crossed the plate for the walk-off win.
Indians’ starter Rudy Owens’ season debut was marred by a serious gopher problem. After retiring the first six Columbus batters he faced, Owens gave up a solo homer to Trevor Crowe to lead off the bottom of the 3rd. Two more Clippers singled in that inning, but Owens ended the threat by striking out the dangerous Matt LaPorta. After a strikeout started the next inning, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall also smacked a solo homer off Owens. Owens struck out another Clipper, but then gave up a single to Crowe. Crowe stole second base, and scored from second on Andy LaRoche’s single up the middle. Clippers up, 3-0.
The Tribe missed scoring opportunities in both the 2nd and 4th innings. DH Jeff Clement singled to lead off the 2nd, but was forced out on a double play. 2B Brian Friday reached base on a walk in the 4th, but was picked off base and tagged out in a run-down. Eric Fryer and Clement each singled after their teammates were erased, and each might have been able to drive in a run if there had still been a runner on base.
A mistake by the Clippers allowed the Indians to score their 4 runs, all unearned, in the 5th. Fryer led off with his second single of the game. Two outs later, LF Gorkys Hernandez grounded to third, but 3B Chisenhall’s throw to first went wide of the bag, sailing down the right field line. That allowed Fryer to reach third base and put Hernandez on second. Starling Marte took advantage of the extra opportunity by lining a single into center field, plating both Fryer and Hernandez. Marte stole second base, and Friday walked, again giving the Indians two base runners. Marte and Friday pulled off a double steal, and when C Luke Carlin’s throw to third went wide of Chisenhall and into left field, Marte easily scored the tying run. Friday moved up to third base, and he scored the go-ahead run on SS Jordy Mercer’s single into center field.
The 4-3 lead did not last long, as Owens’ gopher problem returned in the bottom of the 5th. Matt LaPorta smacked a homer over the left field wall that hit the bleachers and bounced back onto the field, tying the score at 4-4.
Owens left the game after the 5th, giving way to Daniel McCutchen. Owens allowed 7 hits, three of which were solo homers. Other than the homers, his control was reasonable — no walks, and 4 strikeouts. Owens threw 88 pitches (58 strikes). McCutchen pitched 3 scoreless innings. He struck out the side in the 6th inning, then allowed a lone single to Carlin in the 7th. With two outs, McCutchen gave up a single to Chisenhall in the 8th and hit the next batter on the jersey, but an easy infield grounder ended that inning.
Doug Slaten pitched two perfect innings, covering the 9th and 10th innings for the Tribe. He got one batter to fly out, and got 5 ground outs.
The Tribe batters could not get much going after the 5th. Jeff Clement was the only base runner the Indians had during the 6th through 9th innings, when he singled with two outs in the 8th. In each of the next three innings, the Indians put their lead-off runner on base and into scoring position with less than two outs, but they could never get that runner around to score. Gorkys Hernandez beat out a bunt single down the third base line to reach first in the 10th. He stole second and reached third on a fly out, but got no further. Clement lined a single into left field to start the 11th, and advanced to second base when RF Brandon Boggs was safe on a fielding error by the Clippers’ reliever. A strikeout and a timely double play ended that opportunity. 3B Jeremy Farrell singled to left to lead off the 12th. He was bunted to second base and reached third on a ground out to first, but another ground out ended the inning with Farrell 90 feet short of scoring.
That brought them to the bottom of the 12th, and the miscues that ended the game in the Clippers’ favor. Wood was charged with the loss, his second in two days. Wood has struggled in each of his three appearances this week. He gave up 3 runs on 3 hits in one inning on Saturday in Toledo, then gave up the winning walk-off runs in 0.1 innings both yesterday and today.
The Indians posted a total of 10 hits, all of which were singles. Jeff Clement led the way with four singles, and Eric Fryer had two. Starling Marte’s single drove in two runs, and SS Jordy Mercer’s drove in one.
The Tribe will play two more games in Columbus, then return to Indianapolis for Friday’s home opener.
**Still on the DL: Chase d’Arnaud (concussion) and Jake Fox (oblique strain)
**Jeff Clement leads the Indians’ batters with total hits (10), doubles (5), and batting average (.476).
**Brandon Boggs and Starling Marte are the only Indians with home runs so far — 2 for Boggs and 1 for Marte.
**Marte is the only Tribe batter to have a hit in all 5 games so far.