Indianapolis Indians 7, Gwinnett Braves 5
Two home runs in consecutive innings, gave the Indians a win over the Gwinnett Braves at Victory Field tonight. C Tony Sanchez and RF Starling Marte contributed the home runs, while starter Rudy Owens and three relievers held off the Braves’ batters.
Gwinnett got onto the scoreboard first, with one run in the 3rd inning. Rudy Owens worked his way around a 2-out double in the top of the 1st, and two singles in the 2nd. With two outs in the 3rd, Owens walked 1B Ernesto Mejia. RF Jordan Parraz followed with a double to the wall in left field, fielded by Tribe LF Brandon Boggs. Boggs made a perfect throw to the plate, where Tony Sanchez made the catch as he blocked the plate. Mejia had raced around from first base, and was bearing down on the plate and Sanchez — then Mejia bulldozed into Sanchez, knocking him back over the plate and knocking the ball out of Sanchez’s glove. Mejia was called safe, and the Braves had a 1-0 lead.
Owens got into trouble again in the 4th inning, when the first three Braves’ batters reached base safely. Former Indy Indian SS Josh Wilson led off with a single along the third base line. 3B Yamaico Navarro made the dive to stop the ball from going into the outfield, and his throw to first was on-target, but not on-time. Wilson beat out the throw for an infield single. 2B Ruben Gotay walked, and C JC Boscan singled into right field, driving in Wilson from second base. Gotay advanced to third base on the play. Gwinnett starter Randall Delgado dropped down a sacrifice bunt, which Owens fielded. Owens glared Gotay back to third base, before he threw to first for the out on Delgado. Gotay scored moments later on CF Luis Durango’s sacrifice fly, and Boscan scored on an infield single by LF Jose Constanza. Constanza grounded wide of first, and 1B Jeff Clement lunged after the ball. The ball tipped off Clement’s glove, deflecting over toward 2B Anderson Hernandez. Hernandez fielded the ball and fired to first, where Owens was covering, but Constanza beat the ball to the bag. If Clement had let the grounder go, and let Hernandez take it while he covered first base, they might have made the out. Instead, the Braves had a 4-0 lead.
That energized the Tribe batters. The Indians put only two runners on base in the first three innings — a walk by Navarro in the 2nd and a double by Rudy Owens. Owens hit a bloopy fly that dropped into a no-man’s-land in short left-center field, just out of reach of the Braves’ shortstop, left fielder, and center fielder. Neither Owens nor Navarro would come around to score. RF Starling Marte led off the bottom of the 4th with a double to the wall in the right-center field gap. Clement slipped a soft grounder just past the mound, and when 2B Gotay was slow to charge in (he may have thought Delgado was going to get it), Clement made it safely to first base, while Marte advanced to third. Navarro’s sacrifice fly brought in Marte to score the Indians’ first run. Tony Sanchez brought in Clement as well, when he rocketed a rising line drive over the right field wall. The 3-run inning brought the Indians within one run of the Braves, 4-3.
Owens set down the Braves in order in the top of the 5th, allowing the Indians to get right back out there and score three more runs in the bottom of the 5th. With one out, CF Jose Tabata was hit by a pitch (on the elbow or forearm). D’Arnaud grounded through the hole and into left field to put two runners on base. Then Starling Marte smashed a 3-run home run to straight out center field and into the ground cover in the batters’ eye. The Indians had taken the lead, 6-4.
Leroux came back out to start the 6th inning. He began by walking Gotay and throwing a wild pitch to put Gotay on second base. Boscan dropped down a sacrifice bunt, moving Gotay to third base. Manager Dean Treanor had seen enough from Owens at that point. He had thrown 88 pitches (56 strikes) and allowed 4 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks in 5.1 innings, while striking out 5 batters, and Gotay on third base was still his responsibility. Reliever Chris Leroux came in for Owens, and finished the inning with a strikeout and a grounder to second. He needed only 5 pitches to get out of the inning, leaving Gotay standing there on third base.
Leroux also pitched the 7th inning, allowing the Braves to score one more run. Constanza grounded up the middle to begin the inning. He made it to third base when Mejia lined a single into right field. A wild pitch from Leroux hit the top of Tony Sanchez’s helmet and bounced nearly straight up into the air. Sanchez didn’t realize that the ball had gone up instead of down, so he was looking all around the plate and in foul territory, unable to find the ball for a few seconds. As the ball dropped and Sanchez was able to locate it, Constanza was heading for the plate. Constanza scored just as Sanchez was ready to throw the ball. Meanwhile, Mejia had taken the opportunity to advance to second, then made the turn to go on to third. Sanchez threw behind Mejia, to second base, and Mejia was caught in the pickle. Anderson Hernandez and Yamaico Navarro chased Mejia back and forth a bit, before Navarro finally tagged him out (2-4-5-4-5). The inning ended with the Braves within one run, 6-5.
The Indians threatened in the bottom of the 6th. Navarro led off with a grounder to third, which forced Braves’ 3B Terry Tiffy to make a diving backhanded catch. But Tiffy’s throw to first sailed wide to the outfield side and ended up near the visitors’ bullpen. Navarro reached the first base bag in time to be credited with a hit, then took second base on the throwing error. Two outs later, Leroux batted for himself, and stroked a single into left field. Navarro raced around from second and headed for the plate as Constanza fired the ball to the plate. C Boscan made the catch and swiped for a tag as Navarro slid wide of the plate, with his left hand reaching out to touch the plate as he slid past. But Navarro missed the plate and Boscan missed the tag. They should have noticed that home plate umpire Andy Dudones made no call at all. Navarro just hopped up and headed for the Indians’ dugout, as Boscan stood there looking confused for a moment. Boscan figured it out first, and took the few steps to reach Navarro, surprising Navarro with the tag, which ended the inning.
The Indians got that last run back in the 8th inning. Navarro reached base again with his second walk of the game, and he advanced to third when Sanchez slid a single just past the second base bag. Anderson Hernandez’s sacrifice fly brought Navarro in easily (no slide, no tag), to put the Indians two runs ahead again, 7-5.
Doug Slaten pitched a scoreless 8th inning for the Indians, working around a one-out single by Boscan. Closer Tim Wood was being given the night off, so Evan Meek took the 9th inning in the closer role. Meek got the first two outs, then walked Parraz. Tiffee grounded to short, where d’Arnaud fielded the ball and tossed to second, for the force out on Parraz to end the game.
The Indians and Braves each posted 11 hits in the game. Starling Marte missed hitting for the cycle by only a single –he doubled in the 4th, homered in the 5th, and tripled into the deepest corner of the outfield, the 418′ mark in left center, in the 7th. Tony Sanchez also had a multi-hit game, with a single and a double.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Starling Marte’s 3-run homer that gave the Indians the winning run. It was a tremendous blast, right over second base, and continuing on straight to the middle of center field. Marte described his 11th hit of the season: “I was looking for a good pitch I could hit, so he threw me a fastball up, and 1-1 was a good count for hitting, and I hit a home run.” Combined with a double and a triple, it was a good night for Marte.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: In the top of the 9th, with Evan Meek on the mound, Jose Constanza ripped a grounder to the right side of the infield, which seemed destined for right field. But Anderson Hernandez raced to his left and made a spectacular diving stop deep and over towards first base. He was off-balance as he hopped up and in fact was falling as he fired the ball to Jeff Clement at first base, just in time for the out on Constanza.
As expected, LF Alex Presley proved that he was ready to end his rehab assignment, and rejoined the Pirates today. To make room on the Pirates’ roster, Matt Hague was optioned back to the Indians. He did not appear to be in the dugout at tonight’s game, but he should be with the Tribe in a day or two.
The Indians have won all 5 games they have played against the Braves so far this season — they swept the Braves at Gwinnett in June. This series will continue with 3 more games before the Indians head out on the road.