Charlotte Knights 6, Indianapolis Indians 4
The Indianapolis Indians’ 2012 season has come to an end, as they lost to the Charlotte Knights at Knights’ Stadium tonight. The Knights won this best-of-five playoff series, 3 games to 1, and they will move on to face the Pawtucket Red Sox in the Governor’s Cup series, which will begin on Tuesday. Tribe starter Kris Johnson was charged with the loss, despite having pitched only one inning. The start of the game was delayed by nearly two hours by rain, and it ended shortly after midnight.
The Indians found themselves in a hole very quickly. With one out, Kris Johnson gave up back-to-back walks to 2B Drew Garcia and 3B Brent Morel, putting runners on first and second. 1B Seth Loman lined a double to the wall in the left-center gap, driving in Garcia from second base, and leaving Morel on third. DH Josh Phegley lined a single into left field, easily scoring Morel, and leaving runners on the corners. The inning should have been over when CF Trayce Thompson grounded to short, but Tribe SS Chase d’Arnaud bobbled the ball, and instead of a double play, he had no play at all. Loman scored from third base, and the Knights still had runners on first and second. LF Jared Mitchell slapped a sharp grounder to the right side of the infield, but 1B Matt Hague’s diving back-handed stop kept the ball from going into the outfield. Hague was able to throw to second base in time for d’Arnaud to force out Thompson at second. Again with runners on the corners, SS Carlos Sanchez grounded to short, ending the inning with a force out of Mitchell at second base. The Knights had a 3-0 lead.
Kris Johnson had thrown 41 pitches (22 strikes) in that first inning, and had allowed 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks. In a win-or-go-home situation, manager Dean Treanor was prepared to use as many relievers as it was going to take. He lifted Johnson after one inning, and brought in Bryan Morris for the bottom of the 2nd. Morris did not have a very effective appearance either. He walked the first batter he faced, C Damaso Espino, then gave up a huge 2-run homer to RF Greg Golson. Garcia followed the homer with a single, then after a strikeout, Morris hit Loman with a pitch. That was enough for Dean Treanor, who again made a pitching change. Logan Kensing was next out of the bullpen. He began by striking out Phegley, then he walked Thompson to load the bases. A ground out to first by Mitchell ended the inning without any further runs scoring, but the Knights had pumped up their lead to 5-0.
The Tribe batters were not having much success against Charlotte starter Matt Zaleski. Over the first 4 innings, Zaleski faced just two batters over the minimum. Hague lined a single into left field to begin the 2nd inning, but was forced out at second base on a grounder by RF Dallas McPherson. After a strike out, McPherson was also out at second on a grounder by CF Brandon Boggs. Hague reached base again in the 4th, on a two-out walk, but that time he was left stranded.
Logan Kensing shut the Knights down for two more innings after the 2nd. He allowed only a 2-out single in the 3rd, then retired the Knights in order in the 4th, with one strikeout in each inning.
The Indians finally cracked the scoreboard in the top of the 5th, courtesy of DH Yamaico Navarro. Navarro led off with a booming home run that sailed way over three tiers of the left field wall. Boggs followed the homer with a double lined into center field. A ground out moved Boggs to third, and C Miguel Perez was hit by a pitch. Unfortunately, that rally was halted when d’Arnaud bounced into a double play. Knights 5, Indians 1.
Jo-Jo Reyes came into the game to relieve Kensing to begin the 5th. Reyes pitched a scoreless inning, allowing only a one-out single to Mitchell. Then Reyes began the 6th inning with a walk to Golson and a single by Garcia. A fly out let Golson tag up and advance to third base, and a sacrifice fly by Loman brought Golson in to score. Reyes was relieved by Jose Diaz, who ended the inning with a fly out. Knights 6, Indians 1.
Doug Slaten pitched the top of the 7th, setting the Knights down in order, including two strikeouts. Evan Meek took the 8th. He walked Espino, but moments later erased him in a double play.
After the Indians’ rally in the 5th, the Tribe bats went quiet again. They went down in order for the next three innings. The Tribe went into the top of the 9th, still trailing 6-1. 2B Anderson Hernandez led off with a line drive single that sailed over the Charlotte shortstop’s head and into left field. 3B Hector Luna rocketed a home run over the left-center wall, for a 2-run homer. That cut the Knights’ lead to 6-3. A pop out by Hague gave the Knights one out. The Knights changed pitchers at that point, relieving Zaleski, who eventually earned the win. McPherson greeted the new pitcher Brandon Kloess with a double down the right field line, which bounced off the wall and rattled around in the corner. Navarro walked, then Boggs singled up the middle to load the bases and put the tying run on first base. The Knights again changed pitchers, with Santos Rodiguez taking the mound. Next up, Jeff Larish, slipped a single into left field for an RBI, driving in McPherson and leaving the bases still loaded. That cut the lead to 6-4, and now the go-ahead run was on first base. Miguel Perez made the second out when he hit a hard liner — but right to the Charlotte shortstop, for the second out of the inning. Chase d’Arnaud, the 9th batter of the inning, came to the plate with the bases still loaded. He swung at strike one and strike two, then took two balls. But then d’Arnaud swung and missed for strike three, and the game, the series, and the season was over.
The Indians had only 3 hits until the 9th inning, when they added 5 more hits. Brandon Boggs was the only Tribe hitter to have 2 hits.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Hector Luna’s home run in the top of the 9th, which fired up the Tribe batters and really got the final rally going.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Logan Kensing’s pitching performance — he allowed only one hit and one walk over 2.2 scoreless innings. That halted the Knights’ momentum and gave the Indians a chance to take a breath and get reset.
The Pawtucket Red Sox beat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees tonight in Rochester, NY, by a score of 7-1. That gives the PawSox a 3 games to 1 win of the playoff series.