Columbus Clippers 5, Indianapolis Indians 1
The Indianapolis Indians began their longest road trip of the season with a disappointing loss to their divisional rivals, the Columbus Clippers at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio tonight. Starter Rick VandenHurk suffered only his 4th loss of the season as he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, though he struck out 7 batters. The Indians’ hitters managed only four hits — two singles and two doubles, and could only push one run across the plate.
VandenHurk worked around a lead-off walk in the 1st inning, but gave up the first two Columbus runs in the 2nd. With one out, 1B Lars Anderson was hit by a pitch, and SS Gregorio Petit immediately followed with a 2- run homer. VandenHurk allowed at least one Clippers’ batter to reach base in each of the next three innings, but kept them all from scoring. RF Vinny Rottino singled, but was thrown out trying to steal second base. Petit singled in the 4th, on a grounder off Tribe 3B Yamaico Navarro’s glove and into left field. VandenHurk walked former Indy Indian C Luke Carlin next. Both moved into scoring position when VandenHurk threw a wild pitch, but a strike out left them there. VandenHurk made a fielding error to put LF Tim Fedroff on base in the 6th, but he struck out the next two batters and got a ground out to first to leave Fedroff on base.
Columbus starter Roberto Hernandez (the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona) held the Indians to 4 hits over 7 innings of work. The Indians had only one base runner over the first four innings of the game — RF Jose Tabata led off the 2nd inning with a double into center field. He got no further, though, as Hernandez retired the next 10 Indians’ batters.
The Tribe got a rally started in the 5th. With one out, DH Jeff Clement lined a single into right field. C Tony Sanchez drove a long fly into right-center field. The ball went over the head of CF Aaron Cunningham and off the wall. The ball was then bobbled, and that gave Sanchez a double, and the RBI for driving in Clement. Sanchez moved to third base due to the error, but the inning ended with a ground out. The Indians had cut the Clippers’ lead in half, 2-1.
VandenHurk found himself getting into trouble in the 6th inning. 3B Russ Canzler and Petit both singled, around a strikeout. That was the end of VandenHurk’s night. He had thrown 107 pitches (73 strikes) in his 5.1 innings, and despite his struggles, he had struck out 7 batters.
Bryan Morris relieved VandenHurk in the 6th, with one out and two runners on base. He began by giving up a single into center field to Carlin, which plated Canzler from second base. CF Alex Presley threw the ball back in to third base, where Navarro tagged out Petit as he slid into the bag. Another run was added to the Clippers’ total, 3-1.
The Clippers picked up two more runs in the 7th, mostly with the help of the Indians. Fedroff began the inning by reaching base on a throwing error by SS Chase d’Arnaud. D’Arnaud made the play on the grounder, but his throw to first was wide to the infield side, pulling Matt Hague off the bag. Hague swiped at Fedroff as he ran by, but the tag attempt missed, and Fedroff was safe. Morris struck out 2B Cord Phelps, but his third strike was wild, and Fedroff moved to second base. A passed ball by Tony Sanchez put Fedroff on third base. Fedroff scored easily on Rottino’s line drive single up the middle. DH Matt LaPorta also lined a single into center field, pushing Rottino to third base. Rottino scored when Canzler grounded to third, for a force out at second base. Canzler was left on first, and two more passed balls put him onto third base. After a walk, Morris was relieved by Logan Kensing, who quickly ended the inning with a strikeout. Two runs had come in, for a 5-1 score.
Evan Meek came on to pitch the 9th for the Indians. He deflected a grounder back to the mound, and it zipped into center field for a one-out single. A walk to Phelps put two Clippers on base, but Meek got two key strikeouts to finish the inning.
After the run scored in the 5th, only two more Tribe batters reached base in the game, both in the 6th inning. With two out, Presley slipped a single through the right side of the infield. He stole second base, and Tabata worked a walk. A grounder force out at second ended the inning without a run scoring. After that, the Indians went down in order in the last three innings.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Tony Sanchez’s huge double in the 5th inning, off the outfield wall. He drove in the Indians’ only run of the game. It was his 9th double of the season.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Alex Presley’s outfield assist, in the 6th inning. Bryan Morris had just come on in relief, when Luke Carlin grounded a single into center field. The lead runner scored, but Presley cut the Clippers’ rally short when he fired the ball to third base in time for Yamaico Navarro to tag out Gregorio Petit as he slid into third.
The Clippers have crept one game closer to the Indians in the International League Western Division standings. The Tribe is now 8 games ahead of the Clippers. The standings page here in the International League team sites now shows “elimination” numbers for each team. That number for the Clippers is 16. Both the Louisville Bats, who are 24 games behind the Indians, and the Toledo Mud Hens, who are 25.5 games back, have been numerically eliminated from any chance of coming back to win the division. As a comparison, the Charlotte Knights lead the South Division by 6 games over the Norfolk Tides, and the Tides’ elimination number is 18. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are half a game ahead of the Pawtucket Red Sox and 2 games ahead of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The PawSox’ elimination number is 25, while the Iron Pigs’ number is 23.