Indianapolis Indians 6, Buffalo Bison 3
3B Matt Hague hit his first home run of the season, Kris Johnson earned his first win, and reliever Tim Wood picked up his first Save in over a month, as the Indians defeated the Buffalo Bison this afternoon at Coca-Cola Park in Buffalo, NY. Unfortunately, two Indians’ players did not make it past the first inning due to injuries — starter Jo-Jo Reyes and SS Chase d’Arnaud.
The Indians got busy right away. CF Starling Marte opened the game with a liner drive single into center field, then promptly stole second base. SS Chase d’Arnaud grounded to third, and beat out the throw to first base for an infield hit, but came up lame. When trainer Bryan Housand came out to check on him, d’Arnaud was pointing to the side of his left hip. He left the game with a strained left hip flexor, and was replaced by pinch-runner Anderson Hernandez (who stayed in to play second base, moving original 2B Jordy Mercer over to shortstop). With the substitution made, Buffalo starter Chris Schwinden restarted by picking Marte off second base. He walked RF Alex Presley, giving the Indians two base runners again. When Matt Hague flied out to center, both runners advanced one base. The throw in from the outfield came into third base, and might have been an out on Hernandez, but 3B Matt Tuiasosopo dropped the ball, and everyone was safe.
Next came a big blunder by the Bison battery. Schwinden threw a wild pitch, and while C Jean Luc Blaquiere was scrambling after the ball, Hernandez raced home to score (earned). When Blaquiere came up with the ball, Schwinden was not covering home. Presley saw that too, and he sped to the plate. Blaquiere desperately tried to throw to his pitcher, who finally did realize that he was not where he needed to be, but that throw went wild, and Presley scored on the error (unearned).
The Indians increased their lead to 3-0 in the 2nd inning. Jordy Mercer and LF Jake Fox led off with back-to-back singles. Fox’s single pushed Mercer to third, and C Eric Fryer drove Mercer in with a sacrifice fly.
Marte began the top of the 3rd with another single into center field, and again he stole second base. This time, though, C Blaquiere’s throw to second sailed over both his second baseman and his shortstop, who was trying to back up the play. Marte advanced to third on Blaquiere’s second error of the game. Marte scored on Hernandez’s single, and the Indians were ahead, 4-0.
Starter Jo-Jo Reyes took the mound in the bottom of the 1st with 2 runs already in his pocket, but was in danger of giving the lead away. He gave up a single to former Indy Indian CF Corey Wimberly, and would have had Wimberly picked off first base, but was charged with a balk. That put Wimberly on second, and after one out, a wild pitch moved Wimberly to third. A pair of walks to LF Fred Lewis and 1B Josh Satin loaded the bases with Bison, with only one out. Reyes cooly got Tuiasosopo to bounce to third, where Hague started an around-the-horn double play, Hague to Hernandez to 1B Jeff Clement (5-4-3), ending the threat.
Reyes took the mound to begin the bottom of the 2nd, and after throwing a few warm-up pitches, he abruptly stopped. He looked to the Indians’ dugout, motioned to manager Dean Treanor and trainer Bryan Housand, then just walked off the mound and into the dugout with Housand. He was later diagnosed with a right hamstring injury. Kris Johnson was pressed into emergency service, and given all the time he needed to get ready.
Johnson also needed a double play to help him out of a jam in his first inning of work. After a single by 2B Brad Emaus and a walk to Blaquiere, SS Mercer scooped up his counterpart SS Omar Quintanilla’s grounder, stepped quickly on second base, then fired to Clement at first to erase Blaquiere. Emaus advanced to third, but was left there when Johnson struck out the Bison pitcher Schwinden.
The Bison went down in order in the 3rd, then they got to Johnson in the 4th. He loaded the bases with a walk to RF Valentino Pascucci, and singles to Tuiasosopo and Emaus. Two subsequent ground outs allowed Pascucci and Tuiasosopo to score, to cut the Indians lead in half, 4-2.
The Indians put runners on base over the next few innings, but could not score. Marte hit his third single of the game and stole second base for the third time in the 5th inning. He was left stranded. Hague singled in the 6th, but was erased in a double play.
Johnson began the 5th inning with a walk and two outs, then was replaced by Bryan Morris. Johnson was eventually credited with the win, having allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks in 3.2 innings. Morris finished up the 5th inning, keeping the Bison from scoring. He gave up a single and a walk in the 6th, but Quintanilla bounced into another double play, Hernandez to Mercer to Clement (4-6-3) to get out of that jam.
It was Morris’ turn to get into a jam in the 7th. With one out, Wimberly and Lewis hit back-to-back singles, with Lewis’ sneaking under the glove of the diving Hernandez and into center field. Morris walked Satin on four pitches, loading the bases. After a strikeout, Tuiasosopo grounded deep into the hole at short. Mercer was able to keep the ball from getting through and into the outfield, probably saving a run. Wimberly scored, but Lewis had to hold up at third base. Tim Wood came on to relieve Morris, and he quickly ended the inning with another grounder. Buffalo had crept closer, 4-3.
Wood retired the Bison in order in the 8th, then the Indians burst out with some insurance runs in the top of the 9th. Matt Hague began the rally with a solo home run blasted over the left field wall. Jeff Clement and Jordy Mercer followed the home run with back-to-back singles. Jake Fox’s fly out allowed Clement to tag up and move to third base. Eric Fryer grounded to short, for what seemed sure to be an inning-ending double play. Mercer was forced out at second, but his slide disrupted SS Quintanilla enough so that he airmailed the throw to first base. Clement scored easily on the error, and because the ball went into the dugout, Fryer was awarded second base. Tim Wood grounded out to end the inning, but the Tribe went into the bottom of the 9th with the luxury of two insurance runs, 6-3.
Wood finished up the bottom of the 9th without needing the insurance. He walked Corey Wimberly, who then stole second, and advanced to third on a ground out. The game ended when Pascucci tapped one back to the mound, and Wood flipped the ball to Clement for the final out, leaving Wimberly on third.
The Indians’ 11 hits were distributed over several players. Starling Marte led the way with 3 singles (and 3 stolen bases). Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer had 2 hits each. That gives Mercer three two-hit games in a row. Eric Fryer had 2 RBI.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Matt Hague’s solo home run to begin the top of the 9th. It was his first of the season (he hadn’t homered during his time with the Pirates either), and it gave the Indians some breathing room as an insurance run.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: All three double plays turned by the Indians were key in keeping the Bison from scoring. All came with 2 or 3 runners already on base. Each time, the double play halted a Buffalo rally to get the Indians’ pitcher out of a sticky situation.
The Bison committed a total of 12 errors over this 4-game series, and most of those errors contributed to run-scoring innings for the Indians. At the same time, the Indians were error-less in the series.
The Indians have Wednesday off, then open a home-and-away series with the Louisville Bats. The two teams play at Victory Field on Thursday and Friday, then move to Louisville for Saturday and Sunday. The Indians traditionally don’t have home games on Saturday and Sunday of “Race Weekend”, for the Indianapolis 500.
The Louisville Bats, the Columbus Clippers, and the Toledo Mud Hens all lost today, increasing the Indians’ lead in the International League Western Division. The Tribe is now 2.5 games ahead of Toledo, with Columbus 4 games behind, and Louisville 11 games out of first place.