The Indianapolis Indians have begun their season with a series win, taking two out of three games from the Toledo Mud Hens. Brad Lincoln made a superb start for the Tribe today and earned his first win of the season, while his teammates gave him plenty of run support on a total of 11 hits. DH Jeff Clement led the hit parade with 3 hits — two doubles and a single. Three Indians, SS Brian Friday, 2B Jordy Mercer, and C Kris Watts, all contributed 2 RBI each.
The Indians’ first hit came in the 2nd inning, when Clement began his day with a double off the right field wall. He was left on base, but the Tribe got things going in the next inning. CF Starling Marte began the rally with a looper into center field. Toledo CF Quintin Berry charged in, but as he dove, the ball dropped into and out of his glove, and Marte raced into second base. SS Brian Friday worked a walk, then 2B Jordy Mercer continued his hot hitting with a double just barely inside the left field line, going all the way into the corner. Both Marte and Friday scored standing up. The inning ended with a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play, with 3B Nick Evans striking out and Mercer easily thrown out as he tried to steal third.
The Indians’ 2-run lead was short lived, as Toledo got one of the runs back in the bottom of the frame. Tribe starter Brad Lincoln had worked around a lone hit in the 1st inning and a hit batter in the 2nd. The 3rd began with C Omir Santos zipping a liner into the left-center field gap. LF Gorkys Hernandez and CF Marte converged as the ball bounced off the wall, but Hernandez juggled it and then appeared to kick it a few feet away. By the time the ball came to third, several feet toward the outfield side of the bag , Santos was sliding in easily for his first triple of the season. Lincoln held Santos at third with a grounder right to first base and a strikeout, but 2B Eric Patterson slid a single through the right side of the infield, allowing Santos to score the Mud Hens’ first run.
The Mud Hens’ pitchers helped the Indians with their 4th inning rally. Walks to Clement and 1B Miles Durham and a wild pitch put both runners in scoring position. With two outs, a third walk, to Hernandez, loaded the bases. Marte grounded to second for what should have been the end of the inning, but Hens’ 2B Patterson could not make the play. Clement scored on the error, and the bases were still full. After a pitching change, Friday singled through the right side of the infield, driving in both Durham and Hernandez. Friday was thrown out at second as he tried to advance on the throw, ending the inning. The Indians led, 5-1.
Lincoln cruised through the 4th and 5th innings, allowing only a single to former Indian SS Argenis Diaz to begin the 5th. He was relieved after 5 innings, allowing one run on 4 hits. Lincoln did not walk anyone, and he struck out 6 Toledo batters. He threw 73 pitches, and 50 of those were strikes. It was overall a strong start for Lincoln, and he did not appear to be struggling at any point.
Shairon Martis took over for Lincoln to begin the bottom of the 6th. Former Indian Brad Eldred doubled off Martis in the 6th, but was left stranded. Martis retired the Hens in order in the 7th, but gave up the second Toledo run in the 8th. With two outs, Martis walked Patterson, who then advanced to second base on a passed ball by Watts. A double by 1B Ryan Strieby off the top of the right field wall drove in Patterson, but Martis ended the rally by striking out Eldred.
The Indians rallied again in the 8th, when the first five Tribe batters reached base safely. Clement led off with his second double (and third hit) of the game. LF Brandon Boggs walked, then Durham, Watts, and Hernandez hit three consecutive singles. Watts’ single drove in Clement and Boggs, and Hernandez’s plated Durham, giving the Indians their final 3 runs.
Daniel McCutchen pitched the bottom of the 9th for the Tribe. He gave up two singles, and a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position with two outs, but a fly out to left field ended the rally and the game with those two runners stranded.
Brad Lincoln earned the win. All the Tribe batters but one (Evans) had at least one hit in the game, with 3 for Clement and 2 for Marte and Durham.
The Indians will travel to Columbus, Ohio tonight. They will play a 4-game series against the Clippers beginning tomorrow. Pirates’ Charlie Morton is scheduled to make a rehab start for the Tribe on Monday.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: DH Jeff Clement, with his 3-for-4 night, including two doubles, a single, and a walk. After the game, Clement said that he has felt very comfortable at the plate in this opening series. “The things I have been working on in offseason, Spring Training, and then going into this season have really been good. I think that our hitting coach Jeff Branson is the best in the business and working with him on a daily basis just gets you better. I feel like our focus has been on the right things and it’s working out right now.”
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Five strong innings of work by Brad Lincoln, including 6 strikeouts. He stranded 4 of 5 Hens’ base runners. It was the best performance by a starter in this 3-game series.
Infielder Chase d’Arnaud, who was hit in the head by a pitch yesterday, was out of the lineup today and will be out for a few more days at least. He has been examined by a physician and is being treated as if he has a concussion (the pitch cracked his helmet). He’ll be examined again in the next few days. D’Arnaud says he is mostly ok, but feels “a little funny”.
The Indians’ infield is down another player, since Anderson Hernandez is also away from the team. He’s in New York, with his wife, who is soon to deliver a baby.