Charlotte Knights 1, Indianapolis Indians 0
A brilliant performance by Chris Leroux was spoiled tonight, as the Charlotte Knights shut out the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field tonight. Leroux made the start for the Indians, pitching 7 shut-out innings, and allowing just one hit. The Knights managed only 3 hits, as did the Indians, for a total of 6 hits in this pitchers’ duel. The lone run that the Knights scored was unearned, and neither Leroux or the Knights’ starter Dylan Axelrod, who also pitched well, were involved in the decision.
Leroux began the game by working around a 2-out single by RF Conor Jackson in the 1st. After Jackson, Leroux retired the next 8 batters in order. Jackson reached base again in the 4th, when he hit a fly ball to center field, and it bounced off the heel of CF Jose Tabata’s glove, for a 2-base fielding error. Jackson didn’t last long on the base paths, though. Moments later, C Tony Sanchez threw him out as he tried to steal third base.
Leroux retired the next 10 batters, including putting down the Knight’s line-up in order in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. He finished having thrown 75 pitches (51 strikes). He allowed no walks, and struck out 5 Knights. Leroux, who had been working entirely in relief until late July when starter Rudy Owens was traded, has now made 3 starts in the last 12 days. He has been gradually stretching himself out, going 5 innings, then 6 innings, and today 7 innings. In those 18 innings, the Canadian native has allowed just 2 runs on 9 hits, with 2 walks and 13 strikeouts. He also pitched 4 scoreless innings of relief on July 23rd, with one hit, one walk, and 5 more strikeouts. He’s had one win and two no-decisions in his starts.
After the game, Leroux admitted to liking his new role as starter. “I’m feeling good. I kind of got the taste of it when I was in the Dominican this past season [winter ball]. I was a starter for Toros. I started enjoying myself a lot more starting, and when I got designated a few weeks ago, I asked if I could start… when Rudy Owens got traded to Houston, they finally said I could do it. I’m happy they did it and I’m enjoying myself. ”
After Leroux finished, Jose Diaz came on in relief for the 8th and the 9th. Diaz began with a ground out, in which he had to race over to cover first base. Then CF Jared Mitchell drove a double into the right field corner, for only the second Charlotte run of the game. Diaz struck out C Josh Phegley, but Tony Sanchez dropped the ball on strike three. He pounced quickly on the ball, as Phegley raced for first base, but Sanchez’s throw was wide of first base. 1B Matt Hague stretched for the ball, but was pulled off the bag to make the catch. He still had time, so Hague turned and swiped at Phegley to make the tag — and according to the umpire, he missed. Phegley was safe on first base. Mitchell had held at second base, so the Knights had two runners on with one out. Diaz struck out the next batter, then hit SS Tyler Saladino with a pitch, square in the back. Saladino loaded the bases, now with two outs. DH Greg Golson stepped to the plate and singled on a short liner into right field. Mitchell scored easily on the play, and Phegley raced from second and around third to try to score also. RF Brandon Boggs rifled the ball back to Sanchez at the plate, and in plenty of time. Sanchez was hunkered down in front of the plate with the ball in his mitt when Phegley arrived, and Phegley had no chance, tagged out easily. The Yankees had a 1-0 lead on the unearned run.
Diaz went on to pitch a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th, but he was charged with the loss, his second of the season.
Meanwhile, Dylan Axelrod had the Indians right where he wanted them — mostly under his thumb. He set down the first 9 batters he faced, going once completely through the line-up. SS Chase d’Arnaud worked a walk to begin the 4th, but he was immediately erased in a 6-4-3 double play. Matt Hague picked up the first Indians’ hit when his grounder to the right side of the infield ricocheted off 2B Drew Garcia’s glove and into right field. He moved up to second base when DH Jeff Clement walked, but they got no further, since 3B Yamaico Navarro bounced into a force out at second base.
LF Christian Marrero led off the 5th with the Indians’ second hit, another grounder into right. He was caught trying to steal second base, in a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play. D’Arnaud posted the only other Indians’ hit in the top of the 6th. He reached second base when he took off early on a pitch to Tabata, giving the Knights no opportunity to force him out at second on Tabata’s grounder.
The Tribe’s best chance at scoring came in the 7th. Clement lifted a fly ball into left field, for what should have been an easy out, but LF Dewayne Wise dropped the ball. Clement reached second base on the error. Navarro walked, then Marrero set down an excellent sacrifice bunt, moving both Clement and Navarro into scoring position. The could not move any closer, though, as a pop out and a ground out ended the inning. Clement was the only Tribe batter to reach third base in the game. The Indians went down in order in the last two innings, and the Knights had the win.
The Columbus Clippers also lost tonight, and the Indians maintain a 10-game lead in the International League Western Division.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague, and Christian Marrero were the only Indians to get hits tonight. All three hits went into right field. Hague and d’Arnaud both reached second base, but no further.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: Chris Leroux and Matt Hague teamed up to make two nice plays in the 7th inning. Dewayne Wise began the inning by trying to bunt for a hit. Leroux went down and to his right to pick up the ball. His throw to first base was wide, but Hague stretched out, just barely keeping a foot on the bag, to make the out. Two batters later, Dan Johnson grounded to first along the first-base line. Hague had to race over toward the line to make the stop, and his momentum took him into foul territory. Hague had to turn and fire over to first, as Leroux had scrambled over to first to make the catch, for the inning-ending out. The top of the 8th began with another nice play between Hague, Anderson Hernandez, and Jose Diaz. Brent Morel grounded sharply wide of first base. Hague went to his right to make the play, but the ball was moving too fast, and it got past him. Anderson Hernandez was backing up Hague, and he made the stop. Now Hague was way out of position with no chance to get back to the first base bag in time. Diaz saw the play unfolding and knew what was going to happen to Hague, so he raced over to first to complete the play.