Indianapolis Indians 5, Louisville Bats 3
A strong effort by starter Jeff Locke, effective relief pitching, and timely hitting gave the Indians the win over the Louisville Bats at Victory field tonight, and tied this 5-game series at 2 games each. Locke earned his second win of the season with a 6-inning start, allowing just one run on 3 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 6 Bats, and did it on 99 pitches (55 strikes).
Locke began his outing with two hitless and scoreless innings, walking just one batter. With one out in the 3rd, he gave up Louisville’s first hit — to the Bats’ starter Andrew Brackman. Brackman hit a sharp grounder to the right of second base. 2B Brian Friday made a desperate dive for the ball, and managed to keep it from going into center field, but when the ball hit his glove and rolled a few feet from him, he had no play.
The Indians’ batters were also hitless through the first two innings. The only Tribe batter to reach base was SS Jordy Mercer, who was hit on the shoulder with a pitch. The first Indians’ hit also came in the 3rd inning, and was also made by the starting pitcher — Locke lined into center field for a single. He looked more surprised than anyone else in the stadium. Locke had 3 hits in an injury-shortened 2011 season, two for the Altoona Curve (2-for-18) and one for the Indians (1-for-5).
Locke’s single sparked a rally for the Tribe. CF Starling Marte followed with a single through the left side of the infield, moving Locke to second base. Brian Friday was hit on the helmet with a pitch — he went to his knees, but was up in just a moment and was able to stay in the game. With the bases loaded and one out, 3B Matt Hague lifted a loopy single over the infield and into short center field. Both Locke and Marte scored, with the speeding Marte nearly catching up to Locke. A throw in to the plate was not even close. Friday advanced to third base, and 1B Nick Evans’ sacrifice fly brought him in to score, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead.
The Tribe added to their lead in the 5th inning. Starling Marte led off with a walk. He stole second base so efficiently that he did not even draw a throw from the Bats’ C Corky Miller. After a pop out at third and a fly out, Nick Evans blasted a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall for a 2-run homer. Indians 5, Bats 0.
Jeff Locke worked around two base runners in the 4th inning — CF Denis Phipps singled into left-center field, and RF Danny Dorn was hit on the jersey with a pitch. Then Locke gave up one run in the top of the 5th. Miller walked, and advanced to second on Brackman’s sacrifice bunt. 2B Kris Negron drove in Miller from second base with a single into center field. Starling Marte’s throw in from center beat Miller to the plate but was way high. Locke pitched a scoreless 6th inning, getting around an error that let SS Paul Janish reach base. Janish tapped back to the left of the mound, but Locke’s throw got past Nick Evans at first. Locke took care of the problem by striking out the next batter to end the inning.
Three Tribe batters reached base in the bottom of the 6th, all on walks. Brackman walked Mercer to lead off the inning. With a hit-and-run play on and Mercer taking off for second base, C Eric Fryer made a lunging swing at an outside pitch. He lunged so far that he was called out on batter interference, and Mercer was put back on first base. When Brackman was relieved by Carlos Fisher, Fisher walked the first two batters he faced, pinch hitter Jake Fox and Starling Marte. The Indians could not capitalize on the gift, though, as a strikeout ended the inning with all three still on base. Fisher walked two more batters in the 7th, but he also struck out two more, keeping the Indians scoreless. LF Gorkys Hernandez began the 9th inning with a single, but he was thrown out trying to steal second base. Marte had the last Indians’ hit of the game, a tremendous triple off the base of the wall in right-center field. Louisville CF Phipps got to the ball in a hurry, but Marte was flying around the base path, and slid into third base well ahead of Phipps’ throw. He got no further than third, though, as a ground out ended the inning.
Tim Alderson relieved Locke to begin the top of the 7th. Alderson got lucky for the first out of the frame, when Miller lined sharply toward right field, but Brian Friday lunged to his left and made the catch, robbing Miller of at least a single. 3B Chris Valaika, who entered the game in a double-switch, was the next person to get lucky. He ripped a line drive down the right field line and into the corner, where RF Brandon Boggs had to track down the ball after it took some crazy bounces around in the corner. Moments later, LF Felix Perez sliced a grounder through the right side of the infield for an RBI single, plating Valaika. A walk to Phipps gave the Bats two runners on base with two outs. Alderson got out of that situation when 1B Neftali Soto hit a grounder on a line to right field that was stopped by the diving Brian Friday. This time Friday held onto the ball, hopped to his feet, and threw to first base for the out on Soto. Indians still up, 5-2.
Alderson also began the 8th inning, but quickly got into trouble. The first batter he faced, Dorn, crushed the first pitch he saw over the right field line for a solo homer, cutting the Tribe’s lead to 5-3. Janish followed the homer with a line drive single into center field. That was all for Alderson, who was responsible for 2 Bats’ runs on 4 hits and a walk. Doug Slaten came in from the bullpen to take over for Alderson. Slaten made quick work of the rest of the inning, retiring the next three batters in order, on 13 pitches. Slaten came back out for the top of the 9th. He walked Negron on 4 pitches, then struck out Perez and Phipps. Jose Diaz was called in to relieve Slaten with two outs and a runner on first base. Diaz was even more efficient — he threw one pitch to Soto, who hit a towering pop fly, caught by Nick Evans for the final out of the game.
Diaz’s one pitch earned him his first Save of the season. Both the Bats and the Indians posted 7 hits each. Starling Marte was the only Indians’ batter with 2 hits (single and triple). Nick Evans collected 3 RBI, two with the homer and one with a sacrifice fly. Matt Hague had the other 2 RBI for the Indians.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Nick Evans’ 2-run homer in the 5th inning. He gave the Indians the insurance runs that they would turn out to need. It was his first homer of the season, and RBI #4 and #5.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: 2B Brian Friday’s diving stop on Neftali Soto’s sharp grounder in the 7th inning. If that ball had gotten through to the outfield, at least one run would have scored, and the inning could have continued.
Chase d’Arnaud, who took a more serious pitch to the helmet on the second day of the season, has returned to “baseball activities”. Today he took some swings in the cage during batting practice, and he also took some grounders during infield practice.
Wednesday’s game is another 11 AM start, to accommodate the school kids.