Gwinnett Braves 6, Indianapolis Indians 4
A disastrous top of the 9th for reliever Tim Wood led to a 4-run rally by the visiting Gwinnett Braves, and a loss for the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field this afternoon. The usually reliable Wood allowed 3 hits and 3 walks in the inning, as the Braves came from behind to secure the win.
The inning began with the Indians leading 4-2. LF Stefan Gartrell, who had entered the game in a double switch in the 8th, greeted the righty Wood with a single up the middle. After a fly out, C JC Boscan worked a walk, and was replaced with a pinch-runner, Luis Durango. 3B Terry Tiffee, another double-switch replacement, lined a double along the line, landing just inside foul territory in right field. Gartrell scored from second base, and Durango moved to third base. The Indians were still one run up, but now with one out and two runners in scoring position. CF Jose Constanza, who has been hitting the Indians’ pitching well this week, was intentionally walked to avoid a potential big hit, and to set up a double play. Former Indy Indian SS Josh Wilson had gone 4-for-4 yesterday, but had only one hit so far today. He came to bat with the bases loaded, but instead of kindly grounding into the double play that Wood was hoping for, Wilson ripped a bases-clearing line drive just barely inside the left field line, ending up underneath the Indians’ bullpen bench. LF Eric Fryer had to scramble around to find the ball, and by the time he found it and fired back to the infield, three runs were in and the Braves had taken a 6-4 lead. RF Felix Pie was also intentionally walked, in hopes of a double play, but two pop outs ended the inning. The Indians had lost their momentum, and went down in order on three infield grounders in the bottom of the inning. Wood was charged with both a Blown Save and a loss.
The game began at 1:05 pm, with Daniel Cabrera on the mound for the Indians. He gave up a 2-out double to Pie, but left him stranded. As the Braves’ pitcher Eric Junge and the infielders began to warm up for the bottom of the 1st, a light sprinkle turned into a major deluge — the first serious rain in Indianapolis in about 6 weeks.
It rained and stopped and rained again and stopped, and by the time the grounds crew had the tarp off and the field ready again, 2 hours and 27 minutes had elapsed. Braves’ Junge had only warmed up and had not actually pitched, so he did begin pitching, though only for 3 innings. Daniel Cabrera did not come back out, a disappointment after pitching a complete game in his last start.
Junge gave up a single to SS Chase d’Arnaud to begin the bottom of the 1st and walked 1B Matt Hague, but did not allow them to score. He faced only the minimum over the next three innings — he walked d’Arnaud in the 3rd, then d’Arnaud was thrown out trying to steal second base. Chris Leroux, who took over for Cabrera, put the Braves down in order in his first three innings of work.
Gwinnett got onto the scoreboard in the top of the 5th. LF Jordan Parraz led off the inning with a solo home run over the left-center field wall. 3B Ruben Gotay followed with a single into right field, then hit Boscan with a pitch to put two Braves on base. Reliever Billy Bullock dropped down a safety squeeze bunt, which was fielded by Tribe 3B Yamaico Navarro, who had been charging in. Navarro whirled and saw Gotay had rounded third and was on the base path between third and home. Navarro raced at Gotay, chasing him back toward third base, then threw to SS d’Arnaud who had come over to cover third base. D’Arnaud trapped Gotay between himself and Navarro, and finally tagged Gotay out. Bullock was safe at first, and Boscan advanced to third during the run-down. A bloop single by Constanza drove in Boscan from third, then another single by Wilson loaded the bases. That was all for Leroux, who was replaced by Bryan Morris.
“He really did a heck of a job,” praised Leroux’s catcher Jose Morales after the game. He gave up that homer there, but he was attacking the zone the whole time and that’s a strange situation for him. That’s just part of baseball. You’ve got to make adjustments and he stepped up and made some good pitches… he kept us in the game. He gave us a chance to win, and that’s all you can ask from him.”
Morris ended the 5th with a ground out, leaving the bases loaded with Braves. He came back out to pitch the 6th, retiring the Braves in order.
The Tribe threatened in the bottom of the 5th, when C Jose Morales walked and LF Eric Fryer singled into right field. Morris’ sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, but a pop out cut the rally short. The 6th inning began with a single up the middle by 2B Anderson Hernandez, then a grounder to third by CF Starling Marte, which resulted in a force out on Hernandez at second. The speedy Marte reached first base safely. Matt Hague worked his second walk of the game, then Navarro grounded toward third, where Gotay bobbled the ball long enough for everyone to be safe. With the bases loaded and one out, the Braves brought reliever Adam Russell in to pitch. Russell struck out RF Brandon Boggs for the second out of the inning. Then Morales smashed a single into center field, driving in Marte and Hague, to tie the score. Fryer followed with a line drive single, which plated Navarro and gave the Indians a 3-2 lead.
Chase d’Arnaud added an insurance run in the 7th. He led off with a long fly to the wall in right field, and raced around to slide into third base safely with a triple. Anderson Hernandez’s sacrifice fly let d’Arnaud cruise home, for a 4-3 lead.
Bryan Morris began the top of the 7th on the mound for the Tribe. 2B Lance Zawadski led off with a single lined into the right-center gap. After Boscan struck out on three fouled off bunt attempts, Morris was relieved by Doug Slaten. Slaten gave up another single, to Tiffee, which moved Zawadski to second base. That rally was halted when Slaten got Constanza to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play (Hernandez to d’Arnaud to Hague). Slaten also pitched a scoreless 8th inning, including a strikeout.
The Indians were scoreless in the 8th. Then came the top of the 9th, with Gwinnett taking the lead with a 4-run rally, and then taking the win. Neither starter figured into the decision. The Braves posted 10 hits, while the Indians were held to 7 hits. D’Arnaud and Fryer had 2 hits each. Starling Marte went hitless, though he scored after reaching base on a fielder’s choice.
The Indians and Braves conclude this 4-game series on Thursday, then the Indians go on the road for a 4-game series in Toledo.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: While Chase d’Arnaud’s triple in the 7th was exciting, the best hit was Jose Morales’ single in the 6th inning, which drove in both Starling Marte and Matt Hague to tie the score. “I really wanted to put the ball in play,” said Morales after the game. “I’ve been struggling lately, and I was just concentration on swinging at strikes and just seeing the ball. I worked out. I was lucky enough to get a base hit.” Morales reached base three times in four trips to the plate — the single and two walks.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: #1 – The double play in the top of the 7th, off the bat of Jose Constanza, going Anderson Hernandez to Chase d’Arnaud to Matt Hague (4-6-3). The play ended the inning and halted another Braves’ rally. #2- The run-down on Ruben Gotay in the 5th inning, which eliminated Gotay as he tried to round third and come home. Yamaico Navarro, with Chase d’Arnaud backing up, tagged out Gotay in the base path.
The Columbus Clippers also lost tonight, though the Louisville Bats and Toledo Mud Hens both won. That means that the Indians are still 11 games ahead of the Clippers in the International League Western Division standings. The Mud Hens are in 3rd place, 20.5 games behind the Indians, and the Bats are in 4th place, 23.5 games behind the Indians.