Indianapolis Indians 3, Durham Bulls 1
The two starting pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts at Victory Field tonight. Even though Bulls’ starter Chris Archer had 8 strikeouts to the Tribe’s Rudy Owens’ 7, it was Owens who earned the win, his 3rd of the season. Owens also made a pair of outstanding defensive plays, worthy of the highlight reels. His teammates supplied enough firepower behind him, including 1B Jeff Clement’s fourth home run in four days.
The Indians got the game started in a manner similar to last night’s game, with runs in the first two innings. CF Starling Marte led off the bottom of the 1st with a slow grounder to second base, which should have been a routine play. Bulls’ 2B Shawn O’Malley threw wide to the infield side of first base, though, sending the ball bouncing off the fencing in front of the visitor’s bullpen. By the time the Bulls caught up to it, Marte was on second base — ruled an infield single and a throwing error, since the speedy Marte would have probably been safe at first even if the throw had been on target. SS Anderson Hernandez zipped the first pitch he saw down the left field line, easily scoring Marte from second for a 1-0 score. Archer regained his composure, and finished the inning with 3 strikeouts.
Owens began his night with four strong innings of work, allowing only one hit. That was a double down the right field line by SS Reid Brignac in the 3rd inning. 3B Cole Figueroa dropped down a sacrifice bunt, fielded nicely by Owens, to move Brignac to third base with one out. Owens calmly struck out the next two batters, leaving Brignac stranded.
The only run the Bulls scored came in the 5th inning. Former Indy Indian LF Jeff Salazar smacked a solo home run over the right field wall with one out in the frame. Brignac picked up his second double of the night with a line drive into the right-center gap immediately after the home run. Once again, Owens stranded Brignac, this time with two ground outs.
Owens struggled a bit in the 6th inning as well, but got himself out of the jam. O’Malley led off with a triple into the deepest part of left-center field, out of the reach of both LF Alex Presley and Starling Marte. A walk to CF Jesus Feliciano gave Durham runners on the corners with no outs. Two strikeouts moved Owens a little closer to getting out of the inning. He hit 1B Juan Miranda with a pitch, loading the bases, then struck out Salazar to end the inning without a run scoring.
Owens came out again to begin the 7th inning. The first two batters grounded out, then C Craig Albernaz ripped a double down the left field line, into the Tribe bullpen, and under the bullpen bench. That was all for Owens, who had thrown 99 pitches (67 strikes) in 6.2 innings. He allowed just one run on 5 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts. Bryan Morris relieved Owens, ending the 7th inning with a ground out.
After scoring in the first two innings, the Indians had only one more hit for the rest of the game. Archer kept the Tribe batters under his control for the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, giving up only a walk to Presley in the 3rd (he stole second base). With one out in the 5th, Jeff Clement blasted a no-doubt-about-it home run well over the right field wall, all the way to the sidewalk in front of the Jumbotron scoreboard. The ball hit the scoreboard on the bounce. That insurance run gave the Indians a 3-1 lead.
Durham reliever Alex Torres pitched himself into a jam in the bottom of the 7th. With two outs, Brian Friday worked a walk. Torres next threw 8 straight balls, walking both Marte and Hernandez to load the bases. The Indians could not capitalize, though, as Presley grounded out to end the threat.
Bryan Morris pitched a scoreless 8th inning, allowing just one single. He started the 9th with a fly out, then Brignac collected his third hit of the game, shooting a sinking line drive into center field. Starling Marte raced in and tried for the shoe-top catch, but had the ball come out of his glove. Marte hopped up and scrambled for the ball quickly enough so that Brignac could not advance further than first base. Morris got Figueroa to ground to second, where Friday made the easy scoop and fired to Hernandez covering the bag. Brignac was out at second, but his slide disrupted Hernandez, who could not get off the throw to first. A walk gave the Bulls two runners on base and two outs. Manager Dean Treanor had seen enough, and brought in Tim Wood. Wood finished up with a strikeout of O’Malley to end the game and earn his Save.
The Bulls’ batters kept 2B Brian Friday busy during the game. Friday made 7 assists at second base, for 4-3 (Friday to Clement) ground outs. The disrupted double play in the 9th turned into a fielder’s choice, which was another assist for Friday, 4-6. The Bulls lifted fly balls to the outfield only 3 times. They did not ground out to third base or shortstop at all. The Indians also favored grounding out to the right side of the infield, with four 4-3 plays. They did not fly out at all — if the ball got past the infield, it was a hit. The Indians did ground out to third base once and shortstop once.
The Indians posted a total of 7 hits, with 7 different batters making one hit each. Anderson Hernandez, Jeff Clement, and Brian Friday had the three RBI.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Jeff Clement’s solo home run in the 6th inning, which gave the Indians an insurance run. It was Clement’s third homer in two days. Tim Wood praised Clement after the game: “He is real hot. He’s swinging a good bat. We lost a couple of big bats that got called up to Pittsburgh…. we need people to step up, and Jeff stepped up huge for us.”
Indians Defensive Gems of the Game: Rudy Owen made four assists in the game on tappers (or hard hit bouncers) back to the mound. In the top of the 4th, Jesus Feliciano dropped down a swinging bunt along the first base line, about even with the mound. Owens ran toward the line, then had to make a sliding catch to avoid crashing in to Feliciano. He turned with the slide, ending up facing towards home plate. A quick hop up to his knees and a turn, and Owens fired to first base in time for the out. Owens also demonstrated how to cover first base in the 2nd inning. Juan Miranda grounded sharply along the first base line, and Jeff Clement had to make a diving stop going to his right (his glove side). Owens came out of his delivery going toward the third base side, but he made an abrupt stop and turn, and raced to first base in time to catch Clement’s flip from his knees to make the out.
The Indians have increased their lead in the International League Western Division, as the other three teams in the division all lost their games tonight. The Indians are now 6 games ahead of the Columbus Clippers, 6.5 games ahead of the Toledo Mud Hens, and 14 games ahead of the Louisville Bats.
Jordy Mercer was called up to the Pirates last night. To make room for him on the roster, INF Yamaico Navarro was optioned to the Indians. He should arrive in the next couple of days.
Doug Slaten, who was called up to Pittsburgh two days ago, might not have been with the Indians for much longer if he had not been called up. He had an “opt out” clause in his contract, giving him the right to leave the organization if he had not been added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster by June 1st.