Indianapolis Indians 2, Louisville Bats 1
They had already played “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” again, for the 14th inning stretch. There had been no scoring for longer than a ballgame usually lasts — 9.5 innings. And the managers were running out of bullpen options. Finally, in the bottom of the 15th inning, 4 hours and 33 minutes after the game began, two Indians’ batters were finally able to end the game. With one out, and Louisville’s reliever Jordan Smith on the mound for his second inning, Tribe RF/LF Alex Presley stepped to the plate and drilled a grounder through the right side of the infield and down to the right field corner. With his speed, Presley was able to race around to third base, for a one-out triple. 3B Matt Hague didn’t need to do much — a longish fly ball, or even a grounder to the right side of the infield would have sufficed. But he lined a single into right filed, allowing Presley to score easily with the (finally!) game winning run.
Rudy Owens made the start for the Indians. He was not involved in the decision, as he left the game when the score was tied. He chugged along for the first four innings of the game, but did not have his usual control. His pitches were all over, and though he walked only one batter, he threw a lot of pitches for balls. Owens gave up three hit and a walk over the first four frames. Bats’ lead-off batter CF Kris Negron opened the game by just beating out SS Jordy Mercer’s throw on a grounder deep into the hole. 3B Willie Harris worked a walk. Owens got 1B Neftali Soto to bounce right to 2B Anderson Hernandez, who quickly stepped on second base, then fired on to first to complete the double play. An easy fly out ended the inning. Owens dealt with a 2-out double by C Dioner Navarro in the 2nd, and a 2-out single by Harris in the 3rd. He retired the Bats in order in the 4th, with the help of a long long run into the right-center gap by RF Alex Presley to catch a tremendous fly ball that nearly everyone in the stadium but Presley thought was going to be at least a double.
The Indians were not making the Louisville starter, Jeff Francis, work nearly as hard. Francis held the Tribe batters to just one hit over the first four innings — a line drive single by C Jose Morales in the 3rd inning.
The top of the 5th began with another hit by Navarro, this one a looper into left field. SS Miguel Rojas also singled, on a slowly rolling grounder toward third base, when he beat out the throw from Hague to 1B Jeff Clement. That brought up Frances, who not surprisingly, dropped a bunt down near the third base line. Owens leapt off the mound to get it, and made a wide throw to first, pulling Clement off the bag. That gave the Bats loaded bases with no outs. Owens threw a wild pitch that bounced several feet in front of the plate, then bounced all the way to the backstop. As Morales chased after it and Owens came to cover the plate, Navarro took off from third and scored easily, as the other two runners also advanced one base. Negron flied out to short center field, and with a healthy fear of Starling Marte’s arm, Rojas remained at third instead of trying to tag up and score. Owens ended the threat by striking out Harris and Soto, leaving two Bats’ stranded. Bats up, 1-0.
The Indians did not allow that lead to last long. Jeff Clement led off the bottom of the 5th with a grounder through the right side of the infield. After a fly out, Clement moved to second base on LF Jake Fox’s slowly rolling ground out to third. Back-to-back walks to Morales and Rudy Owens loaded the bases with Indians, with two outs. Starling Marte picked up an RBI when he smacked a sharp grounder off Jeff Francis’ glove. The ball ricocheted toward the area mid-way between first and second bases, rolling slowly. Louisville 1B Soto and 2B Cody Puckett appeared confused for about a second, and almost collided, but by the time they got themselves straightened out, Marte was safe on first, and Clement had raced home from third to tie the score.
And that was that for the next 9.5 innings. The Tribe put runners on base in most of those innings, but could not get them around to score. In fact, three times, an Indians’ base runner was thrown out at the plate while trying to score a go-ahead or winning run:
* Fox singled in the 7th, and was replaced by pinch-runner Brandon Boggs. Boggs was erased when Morales bounced into a double play. Boggs did remain in the game, playing right field as Alex Presley switched over to left field.
* Starling Marte lifted a long fly ball over the head of Bats’ CF Negron. The ball bounced off the warning track and the wall, and by the time Negron threw it back into the infield, the speedy Marte was standing on third base. He was the first to be thrown out at the plate, on a fielders choice grounder to short. C Navarro plunked himself down a foot in front of the plate, and Marte could not blow through him.
* Jordy Mercer doubled down into the left field corner in the 9th, and Boggs followed with a walk. Both were left on base.
* With two outs in the 10th, the Indians had 3 consecutive singles, by Hernandez, Presley, and Hague. Hernandez tried to score from second base on Hague’s single to deep short. The Bats tried getting the force out at second base, but Presley was too fast for them, and had already slid in to second by the time the throw got there. The alert 2B Puckett then threw to the plate, where Hernandez was the second Indians’ runner to be cut down trying to score.
*Jeff Clement led off the 11th with a walk, and moved to second base on Morales’ single into right field. Pinch-hitter Brian Friday lined a single into right field, and Clement tried to score from second base…. and became the third Indians’ base runner to be thrown out at the plate.
*By this time, everyone was getting tired, and the Tribe went down in order in the 12th and 13th. In the 14th, Morales singled, but was left stranded.
After Owens left the game, Evan Meek came on to pitch for the Tribe. He gave up two hits, but left one stranded, and erased Soto with a double play, for two scoreless innings. Doug Slaten pitched three scoreless innings. He gave up a lead-off single to LF Danny Dorn in the 9th, then retired the next 7 batters in order. With one out in the top of the 11th, Puckett reached base when Anderson Hernandez missed the handle on a grounder. Slaten got a strikeout, then intentionally walked the potentially dangerous Navarro, before getting Rojas to ground into a force out, ending that inning.
Jose Diaz came in from the bullpen next, and he also pitched 3 innings, which is very unusual for him. Diaz began by giving up a single to CF Joey Gathright, who had entered the game in a double switch. Negron bunted Gathright to second base, then Harris was intentionally walked. A wild pitch, also rare for Diaz, moved both runners into scoring position. Diaz just struck out the next batter, then got a fly out to end the inning without a run scoring. He retired the side in the 13th, then worked around a walk and a single by Negron in the 14th.
Tim Wood took his turn in the top of the 15th. He retired the side in order, on just 9 pitches. That made Wood the pitcher of record when Presley and Hague struck in the bottom of the 15th, and Wood was credited with the win.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Alex Presley’s triple in the bottom of the 15th, which set up Matt Hague and the Tribe for the walk-off win.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: There were several outstanding plays by several Indians’ players tonight — from racing across the outfield to make beautiful catches on balls that seemed to be uncatchable when they were hit, to a pair of timely double plays, helping to get pitchers out of major or minor jams. Two notable infield plays: In the 6th, with Bill Rhinehart on second base after a lead-off double, and one out, Danny Dorn grounded to short. Jordy Mercer made the scoop with his body facing towards first base, as if he was conceding third base to Rhinehart and going for the out on Dorn at first. Then, while still off-balance, Mercer somehow twisted the upper part of his body around and made his throw to Matt Hague at third instead. The ball got to Hague in plenty of time, and he was able to tag out Rhinehart as he came into the bag, to erase the lead runner. In the 10th, with two out, Neftali Soto grounded toward second base. Anderson Hernandez raced to his right, and made an awkward-looking back-handed catch. Then he did the spin-and-throw, coming in to first a little low. Jeff Clement was able to dig the ball out of the dirt in time for the out.
Chase d’Arnaud, who suffered a strained left hip flexor two days ago, reports that he is feeling good. He is listed as “day to day”, and may not have to miss many games.
Pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes, who also left the game early on Tuesday, has a pulled hamstring. He will probably miss at least 2 – 3 starts.
The Indians have another game against Louisville at Victory Field on Friday, then both teams travel to Louisville for two more games there.
The Columbus Clippers and Toledo Mud Hens also lost tonight. Now the first-place Indians are 3.5 games ahead of the Mud Hens, and 5 games ahead of the Clippers. The Bats bring up the rear, 12 games behind.