The 2012 Indianapolis Indians began their season with a loss to the Toledo Mud Hens at a packed Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio. Three former Indians, now playing for the Mud Hens, contributed to the Tribe’s downfall. The Tribe batters were held to just 4 hits by the Toledo pitching staff.
Justin Wilson made his return to the starting rotation official, as the Indians’ Opening Day starter, and struggled with command right away. He walked the first two Toledo batters, CF Quintin Berry and RF Matt Young. 2B Eric Patterson bounced right back to the mound, where Wilson couldn’t catch it cleanly but did knock it down. That removed the possibility of whirling for a quick double play, though he was able to make the out at first base. With both Berry and Young in scoring position, 1B Ryan Strieby slapped a grounder up the middle and into center field, allowing both runners to score.
Toledo added to their 2-0 lead in the second inning, when 3B Audy Ciriaco (the brother of former Indianapolis Indian Pedro Ciriaco) hit a rising line drive over the left field wall for a solo homer. Wilson walked three of the next four batters after the homer, but left all three on base when Strieby lined out to left field.
Toledo starter Adam Wilk, who eventually earned the win, gave up just one hit in his 5 innings of work. That hit went to 2B Jordy Mercer, who slapped a hard grounder just off the tip of Ciricaco’s glove and down the left field line for a double in the top of the first. Mercer was left stranded, though, as CF Starling Marte struck out, and 3B Nick Evans lined out.
After Mercer’s hit, Wilk retired the next 13 batters in order. RF Brandon Boggs worked a walk (the only walk Wilk allowed), with two outs in the 5th, but Wilk got C Eric Fryer to ground out, ending the inning. Wilk struck out 6 Tribe batters in his 5 innings.
Wilson also struck out 6 batters in 5 innings, but a total of 6 walks, plus 2 hits put Wilson in line for his first loss of the season. Wilson settled down after the 2nd inning. He retired the side in the 3rd and 4th innings, then walked one batter in the 5th.
Daniel McCutchen pitched the 6th inning for the Indians. He began by hitting LF Jerad Head with a pitch. Head stole second base, then with two outs, scored the Mud Hens’ fourth run on C Omir Santos’ double into right field. McCutchen loaded the bases with a walk and a single to Young, but got out of the jam with a ground out.
McCutchen was relieved by veteran pitcher Shairon Martis for the 7th inning. Martis also struggled, giving up an unearned run to the Mud Hens. A walk and a double by former Indian, DH Brad Eldred, put two Mud Hens on the corners. Head grounded to short, but instead of making a fielder’s choice out at the plate or an out at first, SS Chase d’Arnaud couldn’t handle the ball. The Toledo runner from third scored on the error, leaving runners on the corners. Toledo was up, 5-0.
Bryan Morris made his AAA debut in the 8th inning. He had the unusual situation of striking out the side, but doing so with FOUR strikeouts. Morris struck out Berry first. Young struck out next, but Morris’ final strike was a wild pitch, and Young reached first base safely. Another wild pitch moved Young to second, while Morris struck out 2B Eric Patterson. Finally Morris struck out Strieby to end the inning. He was the only Tribe pitcher who did not allow a run in the game, and was excited to be playing in the regular season and in AAA.
“I had a lot of adrenaline tonight, so I was trying to manage that and keep it down,” said Morris in a post-game interview. “To play against someone with a different color jersey in a game that counts for something really helped me get a little rush going. I have really been working on pitching off my fastball. My breaking balls aren’t as effective if they can’t work off my fastball. And tonight I attacked with my fastball, and a lot of the swings and misses I got with the breaking ball were because I set them up with the fastball.”
Unfortunately, the Indians’ batters were also doing a lot of striking out. After Wilk struck out 6 batters, three Toledo relievers struck out 6 additional Indians. Brayan Villarreal took over for Wilk in the 6th and 7th innings. He struck out three batters, one in the 6th and two in the 7th. LF Gorkys Hernandez greeted Villarreal with a single to lead off the 6th, but he was caught trying to steal second in a strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em-out double play, on d’Arnaud’s strikeout.
Former Indy Indian Chris Bootcheck took the mound for the Mud Hens for the 8th inning. Bootcheck also surrendered a hit — a two-out double lined into left field by Eric Fryer. Bootcheck also struck out one Tribe batter, Brandon Boggs. Jose Ortega finished the game for the Mud Hens, but he gave up the only Indians run in the top of the 9th. Chase D’Arnaud led off with a walk, and after an out, Starling Marte smacked a long fly ball off the center field wall, just over the reach of Toledo CF Berry. By the time Berry chased down the ball, the speedy Marte was standing on third base with an RBI triple, and d’Arnaud had scored the Indians’ only run of the game. That was all the Indians would get, though, as Ortega struck out the next two Indians to end the game.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Starling Marte’s first AAA hit and first AAA RBI was his 9th inning triple, which drove in the lone Indians’ run.
Roster Moves: Jeremy Farrell was promoted from AA Altoona today, after playing only one game as a member of the Curve. He went 1-for-4 for Altoona last night, and 0-for-3 in his AAA debut tonight.
Ferrell takes the roster spot vacated when Jake Fox was put onto the Disabled List with an oblique strain. The minimum amount of time a player can be on the DL is 7 days, so Fox is hoping that he will be ready to return by next Friday, for the Indians’ Home Opener — Fox’s first time to play at Victory Field as a pro, in front of his hometown fans.
There is a new voice in the Indians’ broadcast booth as well. Will Flemming joins veteran broadcaster Howard Kellman on the radio, and with the TV broadcasts. Scott McCauley, who had been Kellman’s partner for several years, has moved on to different opportunities.