Locke’d Down: Indians Shut Out Bats
Indianapolis Indians 4, Louisville Bats 0
Indians’ starter Jeff Locke continued his dominance of International League batters as he earned his third win of the season against the Louisville Bats at Victory Field. Locke increased his streak of scoreless innings pitched to 15. In his last 20 innings pitched, he has allowed only one run. Tonight he scattered 4 hits over 7 innings, and did not walk a batter. He struck out 5, and of his 95 pitches, 67 were strikes. Locke’s record now stands at 3-1, with a 2.31 ERA.
Locke tends to work quickly, and he did that tonight — the game lasted only 2 hours 15 minutes. “He did great today,” said 3B Matt Hague after the game. “He threw a lot of strikes and kept the hitters off-balance. It’s good to play defense behind him.”
The biggest threat Locke faced came in the top of the 2nd inning. Bats’ 1B Naftali Soto opened the inning with a grounder up the middle for single. Locke struck out LF Danny Dorn, then 2B Chris Valaika legged out an infield hit on a grounder deep in the hole a short. The throw from Tribe SS Jordy Mercer was not in time, despite a maximum stretch by 1B Jake Fox. Locke got the next batter, RF Bill Rhinehart, to bounce to Mercer, who started a 6-4-3 (Mercer to 2B Anderson Hernandez to Fox) double play, ending the threat and the inning.
Locke gave up a single to opposing pitcher Chad Reineke in the 3rd inning. He retired the Bats in order in the 4th and 5th, before giving up one final hit to 3B Kris Negron in the 6th. Negron advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt and then stole third — the only Louisville batter to get that far.
The Indians did all their scoring in the first two innings. Chad Reineke started his evening by striking out CF Starling Marte, but then gave up four consecutive hits. LF Gorkys Hernandez lined a single into right field, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Matt Hague smashed a liner right back at Reineke, which hit his glove and went dead in the grass behind the mound. By the time anyone could get to it, the runners were safe on the corners. Jake Fox ripped a line drive just inside the third base line and into the left field corner, driving in Hernandez with the first run of the game. Mercer looped a single into right field to score Hague. RF Brandon Boggs didn’t get a hit, but he drove in a run, with a fly ball to the edge of the warning track in right field for a sacrifice fly, plating Fox. The Indians had a 3-0 lead.
They attacked Reineke again in the 2nd inning, but Reineke got lucky when the Indians ran themselves out of the inning. 2B Anderson Hernandez led off with a bloopy single into short right field. Locke dropped down a very short bunt, and by the time Bats’ 3B Negron got to the ball, Anderson Hernandez was already at second base. Marte showed off his speed to beat out an infield hit when Negron did not field his grounder quickly enough. Anderson moved to third on that play. Reineke’s first bit of luck came when Marte was leaning a little too far off first — Reineke picked him off base. Gorkys Hernandez picked up an RBI with another infield single. He smacked a sharp grounder wide of first, which 1B Soto stopped with a dive. Soto hopped up with the ball, only to discover that Reineke was not running to cover first base. That turned the play into a foot race between Soto and Gorkys Hernandez. Gorkys won the race, safe at first when Soto’s dive for first was not in time, and Anderson scored from third base. Hague followed with a single into left field. Gorkys had rounded second and was in his second foot race of the inning — but the ball beat him to the third base bag, with Negron applying the tag to cut short the Tribe rally.
In fact, that was the end of the Indians rallying at all. They had 3 hits and 2 walks over the rest of the game, but did not score again. Boggs singled down the right field line in the 3rd, and moved to second base when C Eric Fryer worked a walk, but both were left on base. Gorkys Hernandez singled with two outs in the 4th, and reached second base when Reineke made a throwing error (wide throw) to first base on a pick-off attempt. He was also left stranded. The Indians went down in order in the 5th and 6th innings, and again in the 8th. Marte led off the 7th with a double, when CF Denis Phipps attempted a dramatic diving catch and missed. A ground out moved Marte to third. Hague was intentionally walked in hopes of setting up a double play. The Bat’s ploy worked — Fox bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Evan Meek made his Indians’ debut, coming on in relief of Locke to begin the 8th inning. He retired three Bats in a row in the 8th, but threw a lot of balls (7 strikes, 8 balls), and reached a full count on the first two batters. He did better in the top of the 9th, throwing 10 pitches with 7 strikes and just 3 balls. Meek struck out Negron to begin the inning, then gave up a single into the right-center gap to SS Miguel Rojas. He ended the game by getting Phipps to bounce into a 4-6-3 (Anderson Hernandez to Mercer to Fox) double play.
Gorkys Hernandez led the Indians’ offense with 3 singles, while Starling Marte and Matt Hague had 2 hits each. “We’ve been playing good baseball lately, and just got to keep it rolling,” said Jake Fox. “It’s about consistency, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: The biggest hit was Jake Fox’s line drive double in the 1st inning, which rocketed down the left field line and into the corner, driving in the first run of the game. Fox went 1-for-4 in the game, dropping his average to .353.
Indians Defensive Gem of the Game: In the top of the 7th, Bats’ Chris Valaika lifted a fly ball into right-center field. Starling Marte was playing more straight up in center, so he had to run to his left and a bit back. At the last second, he made a leap into the air, and reached almost behind himself, to make an amazing catch.
In a pre-game ceremony, the Indians honored the three pitchers who combined for last week’s no-hitter: Justin Wilson, Jose Diaz, and Doug Slaten. Catcher Jose Morales, who caught all of them, was also honored.
The Indians also announced that pitcher Rudy Owens was named Player of the Month for April.
The Indians wrap up this brief 2-game series against the Bats on Sunday afternoon, then continue the home stand with 4 games against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.