Indianapolis Indians 6, Buffalo Bisons 2
A strong start by Rick VandenHurk, excellent defense behind him, and timely hitting gave the Indianapolis Indians a win over the Buffalo Bison at Victory Field tonight. VandenHurk earned his 10th win of the season, for a 10-3 record, as he struck out 7 batters in 6 innings, and allowed one run on 7 hits and one walk. 3B Matt Hague led the 11-hit offense by going 3-for-4 at the plate.
VandenHurk had to deal with at least one Buffalo runner on base in all six innings that he pitched. The Indians’ defense got him out of a jam in the top of the 1st. Lead-off batter LF Fred Lewis began the game with a walk. SS Josh Rodriguez popped a single into right field, giving the Bisons runners on first and second. VandenHurk took a deep breath, then struck out RF Lucas Duda for the first out of the inning. 3B Josh Satin took a long fly ball into the right-center gap, which might have scored both base runners, but for Tribe CF Gorkys Hernandez. Hernandez raced from his spot in mid-center field, going back and to his left, where he reached out and made a huge catch at the wall in right-center. A ground out ended the inning without a run scoring.
The 2nd inning brought more worries for VandenHurk. With two outs, C Mike Nickeas took a long fly ball to the deepest part of left-center field, which neither Gorkys Hernandez nor LF Yamaico Navarro could reach. The ball bounced on the warning track and over the wall, for a ground-rule double. Buffalo starter Henry Mejia followed with a single into left, fielded by Navarro. Nickeas was off and running with the pitch, so he rounded third and was heading for home as the throw came in from Navarro. C Tony Sanchez had to leap up at the plate to make the catch. When he landed, he just dropped to the ground, right in front of the plate, successfully blocking and tagging Nickeas as he tried to score.
Buffalo was able to get to VandenHurk in the 3rd inning. Lewis led off with a ball down the right field line, which bounced around in the corner before Tabata could get to it, allowing Lewis to reach third base standing. VandenHurk hit Rodriguez with a pitch, then Duda fouled off several balls before slipping an RBI single into right field. With runners on first and third, VandenHurk retired the next three batters in order, but the Bison led 1-0.
The Indians also threatened in the 1st inning. SS Chase d’Arnaud led off with a single lined into center field. He stole second base, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Gorkys Hernandez grounded softly to first base, and reached safely when 1B Adam Loewen threw back to the plate, where Nickeas tagged out d’Arnaud. Hernandez was thrown out trying to steal second base for the second out of the inning. RF Jose Tabata walked to keep the inning going, and Matt Hague singled, but a strike out ended the inning. The starter Mejia retired the Tribe in order in the 2nd.
After the Bisons scored in the top of the 3rd, the Tribe got the run back in the bottom of the frame. VandenHurk worked a full count and fouled off a couple more pitches before taking a walk. D’Arnaud also walked, then Gorkys Hernandez struck out. Tabata hit a swinging bunt, and beat the throw to first base, loading the bases. Hague singled into center, driving in VandenHurk to tie the score.
Yamaico Navarro gave the Indians the lead in the next inning, with a huge blast over the left field wall and to the back of the grass berm, for a solo home run. Indians 2, Bison 1.
The Indians dug in their fingernails and clung to that slim lead for the next 2.5 innings. Jose Tabata and 2B Anderson Hernandez both singled and Navarro walked over those innings, but didn’t score. VandenHurk worked around a one-out single in the 4th, a fielding error by Anderson Hernandez in the 5th, and a two-out single in the 6th. He had some help from his teammates, including a long running catch with his glove hand outstretched by Tabata in the 5th. VandenHurk was relieved after 6 innings, having thrown 107 pitches (72 strikes).
Daniel McCutchen pitched the 7th for the Indians. He walked Lewis, then erased him with a 6-4-3 double play. Duda singled, then Satin was retired on another amazing play on a grounder to short.
The Indians broke the game open in the bottom of the 7th. With one out, Gorkys Hernandez lined a single under Loewen’s glove and into right field. Tabata walked, then Hague dropped a bloop single into the no-man’s-land behind first base, loading the bases with Indians. The Bisons changed pitchers, but that did not help. Jeff Clement greeted the new reliever with a big liner into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases to drive in 3 runs. Navarro brought in Clement from second base with a double of his own, giving the Indians a 6-1 lead.
Doug Slaten took the mound for the Indians in the 8th. He retired the side in order (and made it look easy). Jose Diaz came in for the 9th, but it was not an easy inning for him. Nickeas led off with his fourth hit of the game, a single. 3B Matt Tuiasosopo, who had come into the game in a double-switch, grounded to short, where d’Arnaud got a force out on Nickeas at second. Tuiasosopo moved to second base on defensive indifference, and on to third on a passed ball. He scored when Lewis doubled into left field. Rodriguez followed with his second single of the game, pushing Lewis on to third base. With runners on the corners, Diaz got Duda to pop up into foul territory, where Hague ran over and leaned into the crowd to catch the pop. The game ended when pinch-hitter Valentino Pascucci bounced to second for a routine ground out.
Three of the Indians’ 11 hits were singles by Matt Hague. Jose Tabata and Yamaico Navarro had two hits each, with Navarro’s being a double and a homer. Gorkys Hernandez’s hit in the 7th was his first since returning to the Indians.
The win gives the Indians a 2-1 game advantage in this 4-game series. The final game of the series will be played on Tuesday. The Indians have Wednesday off, then head up to Rochester, NY for four games against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Indians Hitting Gem of the Game: Jeff Clement’s bases-clearing double in the 7th, which drove in 3 runs and gave the Indians a solid lead, saving fingernails.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: There were long runs to make outfield catches look easy, a throw in from Yamaico Navarro, who does not often play left field, and a leaping catch and blocking the plate by Sanchez, and a reach into the stands by Matt Hague to make a play. The best, though, was the play to end the 7th. Josh Satin grounded into the hole at short, where Chase d’Arnaud went back and to his right to make a diving stop. Then he had to turn and make a long throw across his body to first base. The ball bounced once, but Jeff Clement was able to dig it out on the short hop to make the out.
The Rochester Red Wings beat the Columbus Clippers tonight. Combined with the Indians’ win, that moves the Indians back to a 9-game lead over the second place Clippers in the International League Western Division.
Former Indy Indian Brad Lincoln is heading north of the border — to the Toronto Blue Jays, in exchange for OF Travis Snider. Snider has split this season between Toronto and AAA Las Vegas, though he has had major league time in the past 3 seasons. He’s played 9 games for the Blue Jays in 2012, and 56 games for Las Vegas (plus 5 in A+ Dunedin). He was with Las Vegas, where he was hitting .335, with 13 homers and 56 RBI, until about 10 days ago. The Pirates plan to have him play in Pittsburgh, in right field. All this means some shuffling by the Pirates — which will involve the Indians. A position player coming back to the Indians? A Tribe reliever going to Pittsburgh to take Lincoln’s place?