Indianapolis Indians 2, Syracuse Chiefs 0
Kris Johnson has become quite familiar with the road between Altoona, PA and Indianapolis, IN, since he’s been bouncing back and forth between the AA Curve and the AAA Indians this season. Today, with starters Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson called up to the Pirates, Johnson again made the trip from Altoona. This time, his trip took him to Syracuse, NY, where he made his first start for the Indians in about a month, against the Syracuse Chiefs at Alliance Bank Stadium. Johnson earned his 5th AAA win, as he pitched 5.1 scoreless innings for the Indians.
The Syracuse pitchers did not allow many runs, but they gave up a total of 9 hits, and that came back to get them. Tribe 1B Jeff Clement got the scoring started in the 2nd inning tonight. He slammed a huge blast over the center field wall, for a solo home run and a 1-0 lead. RF Brandon Boggs followed the home run with his 5th triple of the season, which also bounced around in center field. C Tony Sanchez brought Boggs in from third with a sacrifice fly, to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. 2B Brock Holt also doubled in that inning — a single away from a cycle in the inning — but a fly out ended the frame.
Kris Johnson began his evening by allowing Syracuse just one hit in the first 5 innings. That one hit was a single by 1B Chris Marrero to lead off the 2nd inning. Johnson retired the next three batters, leaving Marrero on base. He retired 13 straight Chiefs, before giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Valdez in the 6th. That was 73 pitches (49 strikes) for Johnson, with 2 hits and one strikeout in his 5.1 scoreless innings.
“He did a great job for us,” grinned Jeff Clement after the game. “We know what to expect with him coming back up. He has got really good stuff, and when he pitches ahead of guys, he really gets a lot of outs. What did he give up? Two hits. He threw the ball really well.”
Bryan Morris came on in relief, and finished up the 6th for Johnson with a strike out and a ground out. Morris continued to pitch the 7th and 8th innings. He retired the side in the 7th, including 2 strike outs, and worked around a one-out single in the 8th, with another strike out.
After the 2nd inning, the Indians put at least one base runner on in each of the next innings but the 8th. CF Alex Presley singled in the 3rd but was eliminated in a double play. He also walked in the 5th and again was retired in a double play. Boggs walked in the 4th and SS Chase d’Arnaud singled in the 5th before Presley’s walk. Clement singled and Sanchez walked in the 6th, while Presley and Hague both walked in the 7th. Each time the Tribe runners were left on base.
The Tribe threatened more seriously in the top of the 9th. Pinch-hitter Drew Sutton led off with a walk, then advanced to third when Holt doubled. Presley was intentionally walked, loading the bases with one out. But Hague bounced to short, where the Chiefs started a 6-4-3 double play, ending the inning.
Tim Wood took the mound for the Indians for the bottom of the 9th. He began the inning by giving up a single to Chief CF Eury Perez, then walking former Indy Indian pinch-hitter Jim Negrych. LF Corey Brown dropped down a sacrifice bunt, which Wood had to scramble to get to. Wood fired to Holt, covering first, in time for the out on Brown, but the two runners, representing the tying runs, moved into scoring position. No problem for Wood. He just struck out Marrero, though the third strike was controversial — home plate umpire Marcus Pattillo called strike three when he believed that Marrero did not check his swing, and Marrero claimed to not have swung at all. Pattillo won that round. Wood then struck out SS Carlos Rivero on a big swing-and-miss to end the game. Wood earned his 19th Save of the season, second highest in the International League.
Brock Holt led the Indians’ offense with 3 of their 9 hits, including 2 doubles. Jeff Clement homered and singled.
The Indians’ win and a win by the Columbus Clippers keeps the Indians 10 games ahead of the Clippers in the IL Western Division standings. It does drop the Indians’ magic number to 5.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Jeff Clement’s huge home run over the center field wall. The Syracuse commentators described it as a “moon shot”. It was Clement’s 16th homer of the season, and his 57th RBI. “It’s been a struggle for me this month,” said Clement after the game. “When you’re not getting the results you want, you want to change is as soon as possible.”
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Strong shut-out pitching by three Tribe pitchers. Kris Johnson and relievers Bryan Morris and Tim Wood held the Chiefs to just 4 hits, and walked only one batter. The 9th inning was the only one in which the Chiefs had more than one runner on base.
Brock Holt now has a hitting streak of 9 games. He has 19 hits in those games, and he has two or more hits in 7 of those 9 games. That’s an average of .500 in his last 9 games. Jeff Clement had praise for Holt: “The guy can flat out hit. He plays a solid second base, and has been playing some short for us as well. He’s a competitor… He’s able to square the ball up plenty and find holes. He’s got a great swing.