The Indianapolis Indians cut short the Clippers’ 9th-inning rally tonight, to hang on for the win at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. Tribe Starter Justin Wilson was a completely different pitcher than he was in his start on Opening Day in Toledo, earning his first win of the season. Home runs dominated the offense — two for the Indians and five for the Clippers. All of the Clippers’ runs came on homers, but the Indians pounded out 11 hits and made them count.
For 6 innings, Wilson dominated the Clippers. He allowed two hits in those 6 innings. One was a solo home run in the 5th by RF Chad Huffman. The other was a single by DH Beau Mills in the 3rd. Mills was immediately erased by a double play. As opposed to Opening Day, when Wilson walked 6 batters, this evening he did not walk anyone. He had struck out 6 batters in that last start, and today he struck out 7 batters.
Wilson began the 7th inning by giving up a single to Columbus 2B Cord Phelps. As with Mills earlier, a double play followed the hit, and Phelps was erased. But Wilson could not get that third out. He gave up two more singles, to 1B Russ Canzler and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall. That chased Wilson to the showers. Shairon Martis came on in relief, and got a fly out to end the inning for Wilson. Wilson threw exactly 100 pitches, with 64 of them strikes, keeping many of them down in the zone.
The Indians also had a rally cut short by a double play in the 2nd inning, after a walk to 1B Jeff Clement and a single by C Eric Fryer. Then the Tribe took advantage of two throwing errors to score 3 runs in the 3rd inning. That frame began with a single into left field by 3B Jeremy Farrell. LF Gorkys Hernandez dropped down a bunt and had beat Columbus pitcher Kevin Slowey’s throw to first base, but Slowey’s throw went wide of first, allowing both base runners to advance into scoring position. Slowey hit CF Starling Marte on the hand with a pitch — that required a meeting between the umpires to decide that Marte had not been swinging and had not had his hand in the strike zone at the time. With the bases loaded, 2B Brian Friday lifted a long fly ball into right field, which became a sacrifice fly, scoring Farrell. Hernandez also advanced on the sacrifice fly, so he was able to score easily when Slowey threw a wild pitch. Columbus C Matt Pagnozzi retrieved the ball and thought to throw out Marte, who was moving from second to third. Pagnozzi’s throw went wide, for the second throwing error of the inning, and that allowed Marte to score too. The Tribe had a 3-0 lead.
RF Brandon Boggs increased the lead to 4-0 when he led off the top of the 4th with a solo homer over the center field wall. SS Jordy Mercer made it 5-0 in the 5th with another solo home run. Huffman’s homer in the bottom of the 5th put the Clippers on the scoreboard, 5-1.
The Indians got to Slowey again in the 8th. With two outs, Clement doubled down the right field line, sliding head-first into second base, just ahead of the throw in from RF Huffman. Anderson Hernandez replaced Clement as a pinch-runner, and he was moved to second base when Boggs walked. Slowey exited the game at that point, replaced by reliever Jose De La Torre. De La Torre ended the inning quickly, when Anderson Hernandez was thrown out trying to steal second base.
The home-run hitting was not over, though. Shairon Martis came back out to pitch the 8th inning. After striking out the first two batters he faced, Martis gave up back-to-back blasts to SS Gregorio Petit and CF Trevor Crowe. Martis struck out the final batter of the inning, but the Clippers had crept closer, 5-3.
The solution to that problem for the Indians was to add some more insurance runs. Fryer began the top of the 9th with a double into right field. With one out, Farrell tapped a ball back to the mound, but pitcher De La Torre had trouble picking up the ball, and Farrell was safe at first, ruled a single. Fryer advanced to third base on that play. Gorkys Hernandez drove in Fryer with a line drive into center field. Marte made it three consecutive singles, smacking a ball hard over the RF Huffman’s head and off the right field wall. Both runners had to hold up, because at first it looked as if Huffman might have a chance to make the catch, so the result was the bases loaded with Indians. When Mercer walked, it forced in Farrell, for a 7-3 lead. With Anderson Hernandez at the plate, De La Torre threw a wild pitch that got past his catcher Pagnozzi, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to scramble home from third. The Indians had a solid 8-3 lead.
Those insurance runs came in handy, as the Clippers scored 3 more runs in the bottom of the 9th. Bryan Morris took over for Martis on the mound. The first batter he faced, LF Matt LaPorta, smashed a solo home run over the left-center field wall. Morris walked the next batter, Canzler. Chisenhall took the 5th Clippers’ homer of the game, and the only one that was not a solo homer, over the right field wall and onto the roof of the next building behind it. Morris stopped the bleeding before it became a major hemorrhage, though. He struck out the next three batters he faced to end the game.
Justin Wilson earned his first win of the season. He struck out 7 batters, and Martis and Morris struck out 3 batters each, for a total of 13 strikeouts for the Tribe pitchers.
All of the Indians’ starting lineup except one had at least one hit in the game. Brian Friday did not have a hit, but his sacrifice fly gave him an RBI. Eric Fryer, Jeremy Farrell, and Gorkys Hernandez had two hits each.
The Indians have a 3-3 record, which puts them in second place in the International League Western Division. The Clippers, who have won the International League’s championship for the past two seasons, are currently in first place with a 5-2 record. The Clippers and the Indians play again tomorrow, but at an earlier hour — 11:35 am. That will be the Tribe’s last game on this road trip. They return to Victory Field for the home opener on Friday.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Day: Two home runs, one by Brandon Boggs and one by Jordy Mercer. Boggs’ homer was his third of the season, and his second from the left side of the plate. Mercer’s was his first of the season. “I was in a little funk lately,” said Mercer after the game. “I started out hot and then cooled down, but I have been working with (Indians’ hitting coach Jeff Branson) a lot. I just tried to put a good swing on it. Just try not to do too much, put a good swing on it, and see what happens.”
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Day: Two double plays erased the first two singles starter Justin Wilson allowed. Both twin killings were started by SS Jordy Mercer, with 2B Brian Friday covering second, and on to 1B Jeff Clement.
Two more days until the Indians’ Home Opener! Today the Indians announced that the Indianapolis Children’s Choir (a big deal, for those of you who are out of town) will sing the national anthem for the opener.