Indianapolis Indians 9, Louisville Bats 4
A huge 9th inning, which included a go-ahead RBI by RF Alex Presley and a Grand Slam by CF Starling Marte, gave the Indians a come-from-behind-in-a-big-way victory over the Louisville Bats at Louisville Slugger Field this evening. Starter Jeff Locke did not figure into the decision, but he pitched 6.1 innings and struck out 11 batters. The Indians collected 11 hits, with 5 batters posting 2 hits each: Marte, LF Jeff Larish, 1B Jeff Clement, 3B Jordy Mercer, and 2B Anderson Hernandez. The other hit was a homer by Presley.
Jeff Locke, in his first start since returning from a brief visit to the Pirates, buzzed through the first six innings tonight. He gave up just two singles, although one of them was a solo home run by 1B Neftali Soto with two outs in the 4th. The other hit was a single by CF Joey Gathright to lead off the bottom of the 1st.
Meanwhile, the Indians were not faring any better against Louisville starter Chad Reineke. They scattered 3 hits over the first 6 innings. Jordy Mercer singled in the 2nd, and Jeff Larish doubled into left field in the 4th. With one out in the 6th, Starling Marte dropped down a bunt toward third base. 3B Kris Negron charged in to grab the ball, but his throw to first went wide. Marte was credited with a single, and reached base on the throwing error. Moments later, Marte was thrown out trying to steal third.
The 7th inning began with a walk to Jeff Larish, followed by a single smashed into right field by Jeff Clement, sending Larish to third. With runners on the corners and one out, RF Brandon Boggs plated Larish with a sacrifice fly. Anderson Hernandez zipped a line drive double into the right field corner, but Clement, who is not a particularly fast runner, was held at third base. He didn’t get a chance to score, as a ground out ended the inning. The Indians had tied the score, 1-1.
The tie lasted only a few minutes. C Dioner Navarro led off the bottom of the frame with a double off the top of the left field wall, just missing a home run. Soto lined a single off the heel of 3B Jordy Mercer’s glove, giving the Bats runners on first and second. Jeff Locke struck out the next batter, but he was relieved at that point, in favor of Evan Meek. In a double switch, Alex Presley also entered the game to play right field instead of Brandon Boggs. Meek began by surrendering a double to the wall in the left-center field alley, bringing in Navarro to take a one-run lead. Meek intentionally walked 2B Willie Harris, loading the bases with one out. SS Miguel Rojas grounded to second, which could have turned into an inning-ending double play — except that the ball took a weird hop, hit Anderson Hernandez’s thigh, and caromed into short center field. Soto and Puckett scored on the error, and Rojas was safe at first. Meek retired the next two batters, but the Bats had taken a 4-1 lead.
Alex Presley got the Tribe one run closer, leading off the top of the 8th with a solo home run over the right field wall and into the upper deck. Meek came back out to pitch the bottom of the 8th. He got into a little trouble by hitting C Corky Miller with a pitch and walking Soto. Then he got out of trouble with a double play, Hernandez to SS Chase d’Arnaud to 1B Jeff Clement.
Then the Indians exploded in the top of the 9th, sending 12 batters to the plate, and scoring 7 runs. Jeff Clement led off with a double into the right field corner. Jordy Mercer tied the game at 4-4 with a 2-run homer over the left field wall. A new reliever, Travis Webb, took the mound for the Bats, and began by walking the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Jose Morales. Brian Friday came on to pinch-run for Morales, and he moved up to second base on Anderson Hernandez’s grounder that slipped through the right side of the infield. Friday slipped as he was just past second base, and he would have been tagged out off the base, but Bats’ RF Bill Rhinehart was a bit too nonchalant with his throw back to the infield. A wild pitch moved Friday to third and Hernandez to second, and the bases were loaded when C Kris Watts walked. Still with no outs, Alex Presley stepped to the plate — and dribbled a slow roller to the right side of the infield, just past the mound. By the time 1B Soto could get to the ball and try to flip it to the plate, Friday had crossed the plate with what would become the winning run, and Presley was safe at first on a fielder’s choice-RBI. That left the bases loaded with no outs, and chased Webb from the mound. Reliever Josh Judy came on for the Bats, and he was greeted by Starling Marte, with a huge blast over the left field wall for a grand slam. Indians up, 9-4. After a line out, the Tribe kept going with a double off the left field wall by Jeff Larish and an intentional walk to Clement, who had started the fun. Those two were left on base, when a strikeout and a line out ended the inning.
All that was left was for Tim Wood to wrap up the bottom of the 9th. Wood retired the Bats in order, including two strikeouts, for the Indians’ win. Evan Meek was the pitcher of record when the Indians scored in the top of the 9th, so he was credited with his first win of the season.
While the Indians were winning, the Toledo Mud Hens were losing. The Columbus Clippers were also winning, and now they have moved into second place in the International League Western Division, 4 games behind the first-place Indians. Toledo is in third place, 4.5 games behind the Tribe. Louisville is in 4th place, 13 games behind the Indians, and 7.5 games behind Toledo.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: What could be better than a grand slam? Starling Marte’s homer was his 3rd of the season, and it gives him 18 RBI. It also gave the Indians a big chunk of insurance in the top of the 9th, and put the game out of reach for Louisville. Jordy Mercer had praise for his teammate Marte. “He’s got unbelievable power. You saw a glimpse of it right there. That ball still hasn’t landed.”
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Jeff Larish made two huge leaping catches at the wall in left field. The first was on a long fly by Dioner Navarro in the 1st. There was a runner on first base, who would have been able to come around and score if Larish had not made that catch. Larish did it again in the 8th, when Kris Negron opened the inning with his long fly ball. Another leap by Larish, and instead of extra bases, Negron had only a long out. Navarro also led off the 7th with a fly to the wall in left field. Larish could not make the leaping catch, because the ball bounced off the top of the wall, just inches from a home run. He did make a nice play off the wall to hold Negron to a double and not a triple.
Jordy Mercer increased his hitting streak to 7 games. He homered in the 9th off Carlos Fisher, and after the game, he was asked if he had been looking for a fast ball in that situation. “I laid off some good pitches, and was able to foul some off. He [Fisher] is a slider kind of guy. I got to see a lot of the sliders. Fortunately, he left one up and I was able to put the barrel to it, and the rest is history.”
The Indians return to Victory Field on Monday to begin an 8-game home stand. The first four games will be against the Durham Bulls, then the Indians face off with the Syracuse Chiefs for four games.