Indianapolis Indians 1, Norfolk Tides 0
Yesterday the Tides shut out the Indians, while spoiling a strong start by Tribe starter Rudy Owens, who allowed Norfolk only 5 hits. This afternoon at Victory Field, the Indians turned the tables, shutting out the Tides, and spoiling starter Steve Johnson’s 3-hit complete game. In addition, Starling Marte was back in the Indians’ lineup after missing a week with a bruised hand. Unfortunately, Indians’ starter Justin Wilson had to leave the game early due to tightness in his groin.
Wilson began the game with three scoreless innings, allowing only two base runners. LF Jamie Hoffman singled with two outs in the 1st inning, but was left stranded. Former Indy Indian DH Ronny Paulino reached base when he grounded to short and Tribe SS Chase d’Arnaud airmailed the throw to first base. Wilson choked off that attempt at a Norfolk rally by getting C Chris Robinson to ground into an around-the-horn double play, 3B Jeff Larish to 2B Jordy Mercer to 1B Matt Hague.
When it was time for Wilson to begin the 4th inning, he suddenly stopped his warm-up on the mound. Manager Dean Treanor and trainer Bryan Housand joined Wilson on the mound, along with the infielders and the plate umpire Ben May. Wilson talked to Housand and May, shook his head several times, then walked back to the dugout with Housand.
The newest member of the Indians, pitcher Rick VandenHurk, who had just arrived in Indianapolis late last night, was called in from the bullpen, and given plenty of time to warm up. His first inning was a bit rough, though not entirely his own doing. After a fly out and a strike out, VandenHurk struck out RF Jai Miller, but the third strike got away from C Eric Fryer. Fryer made the throw down to first base to complete the strikeout, but the throw went wide for an error, and Miller was safe on first. Paulino singled into right field, moving Miller to second. Robinson grounded sharply back to the mound, bouncing high off VandenHurk’s foot. The ball landed between the mound and first base. Hague scrambled in to get it, as VandenHurk raced toward first base. He caught Hague’s flip a step before the bag, but two steps before Robinson got there, ending the inning.
VandenHurk hit 2B Bobby Stevens in the 5th, then gave up a double to 3B Tyler Kelly. The double zipped down the left field line on the fly, and hit off the side wall in the left field corner. LF Starling Marte, in his first game back, did not run all the way to the wall or the foul line. Instead, he held back and put himself into perfect position to field the bounce off the wall. He got the ball back to the infield so quickly that Stevens was held up at third. The next batter flied out to short left-center, and Stevens again did not try to tag up. A liner to CF Gorkys Hernandez ended the inning, leaving two Tides in scoring position.
VandenHurk went on to retire the side in order in the 6th, and work around a double in the 7th. A little more help from Marte got him out of a jam in the 8th. With one out, SS Blake Davis singled into center field. Hoffmann followed with a double off the top of the left field wall. Once again, Marte put himself into exactly the right place to field the bounce, as Davis headed to third. Davis rounded third as his manager tried to hold him up. Then, in the middle of the baseline, Davis slipped and went down, clutching at his leg. Marte’s throw was already on its way in, relayed by d’Arnaud. Davis would probably have not been able to beat the throw anyway, but he was a sitting duck on the ground. Eric Fryer only had to walk about half way up the third base line and tag him out. A strike out ended the frame.
Meanwhile, Steve Johnson was throwing a 3-hitter. He allowed only one hit in the first three innings. DH Jeff Clement had that first Indians’ hit, a single lined into right field, with one out in the 2nd inning. The bottom of the 4th began with a walk to Gorkys Hernandez. When Johnson threw to first to try to pick Hernandez off, his throw went wide and sailed into the visitors’ bullpen. Hernandez reached third base easily as the Tides tracked down the ball. Moments later, Matt Hague drove Hernandez in with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. That was all the Indians needed, and the only run in the game, scored without the benefit of a hit.
Johnson went on to allow a double to Jeff Larish (his first hit for the Indians) in the 5th inning — a line drive off the wall in the right-center field gap. Clement had the only other Tribe hit, on an “oops” swing in the 7th inning. The ball dribbled on the infield grass, moving toward third base. By the time 3B Tyler Kelly got to it, he was rushing, and his throw to first pulled 1B Joe Mahoney off the bag, but still ruled a hit.
That one Indians run got larger and larger as the innings wore on, and the Tide’s batters kept being stranded on base. Doug Slaten finished the game for the Tribe, keeping Norfolk from scoring in the 9th. He gave up a one-out single to Robinson. Mahoney grounded to second for what looked like a game-ending double play. Jordy Mercer made a fine stop and throw to second, but Robinson slid in hard, disrupting d’Arnaud so that he could not make a throw to first. Not to worry — Slaten got Stevens to hit a liner right back to the mound, where Slaten only had to put up his glove hand in a reflex motion. Slaten appeared a bit surprised to look at his glove and find the ball back in it, but then he smiled and started toward the dugout. Game over.
VandenHurk earned the win, pitching 5 scoreless innings. He allowed 5 hits and struck out 4 batters. VandenHurk made 59 pitches, with 41 strikes.
“I got in last night, so I’m happy with the win today. It was a quick game, so that’s good, ” he said. “We got a couple of great defensive plays. Defense was great, the catcher was great, and we pulled off the 1-0 win.”
VandenHurk was right about it being a quick game: 1 hour 58 minutes. Maybe they were trying to make up for the longest game in Victory Field history, 4 hours 41 minutes, played on Saturday night, and almost into Sunday morning.
Three stellar defensive plays came early in the game, before VandenHurk even took over. In the bottom of the 2nd, Mahoney hit a fly into the right-center field gap, not really shallow, but closer in than the outfielders were playing. RF Brandon Boggs came running in and made the sliding catch just inches off the ground to end the 2nd inning. Two more spectacular catches came in the 3rd. 2B Jordy Mercer made a full-out, horizontally positioned dive with his glove arm fully extended, to catch Tyler Kelly’s low liner just inches off the ground, for the second out of the inning. Starling Marte followed with a leaping catch at the left field wall, robbing CF Antoan Richardson of a double to end the 3rd inning.
This concludes the Tribe’s longest homestand of the season (10 games). They finished with an 8-2 record for those 10 games: 2 wins over the Louisville Bats, a 3-1 series against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and a 3-1 series against the Tides. This also concludes the season series with Norfolk. The two teams split the 4 game series in Norfolk last week, so the Indians won the season series, 5 games to 3.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Matt Hague’s clutch hitting, as his sacrifice fly drove in the only Indians’ run. Jeff Clement had 2 singles in the game, and Jeff Larish doubled, but none of those 3 hits produced any runs.
Indians Defensive Gems of the Game: The three spectacular catches, by Brandon Boggs, Jordy Mercer, and Starling Marte, were exciting, but all three came with no runners on base. The best plays were the result of more subtle skill and knowledge — Starling Marte prevented 2 runs from scoring, in the 5th and in the 8th, because he knew how to play the caroms off the left field wall, and positioned himself to make those plays happen. Not that it’s easy to run to the wall, but it’s more difficult and shows more skill to NOT run toward the ball when it isn’t appropriate.
“All three outfielders have tremendous feet, so that obviously helps out the pitchers,” said VandenHurk after the game.
Jordy Mercer’s hitting streak was halted at 14 games, when he went 0-for-3 (a strikeout and two fly outs) today.
Henricus (Rick) VandenHurk, a native of the Netherlands, will turn 27 years old next week. He was signed in 2002 by the Marlins as a non-drafted free agent. After 7 seasons in the Marlins’ organization, including some time off for Tommy John surgery, VandenHurk was traded to the Orioles in 2010. He played for a few games in Baltimore and a few in Norfolk in that season, then split 2011 between those two levels. For the Tides, he made 26 starts, for 154.1 innings and a 4.43 ERA. He gave up 141 hits, with 108 strikeouts. VandenHurk made one start for the Bradenton Marauders last week, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 6 innings.