Charlotte Knights 14, Indianapolis Indians 13
The Indianapolis Indians find themselves in a precarious position after tonight’s game at Victory Field. After falling behind the Knights by a score of 9-0, the Indians battled back to within one run of Charlotte, but could not take that final step for the win. That gives the Knights a 2-games-to-none lead in this 5-game playoff series, as the series moves to Charlotte. The Tribe will need to win all three games played at Charlotte in order to continue in the playoffs.
This game turned out to be a slug-fest for both teams. Each team posted 15 hits, for a total of 30 hits and 27 runs. Every member of both starting line-ups had at least one hit. SS Chase d’Arnaud and DH Yamaico Navarro led the Indians with 3 runs each. Navarro supplied 3 RBI, while d’Arnaud contributed 5 RBI.
This was Gerrit Cole’s second start for the Indians, and it was disastrous. He began his first start, last Saturday, by allowing 3 runs on 4 hits in the top of the 1st inning, but settled down after that, to earn his first AAA win. Today, though, Cole didn’t settle in after the 1st inning. The top of the 1st began with the first 5 Charlotte batters reaching base safely. DH Greg Golson led off with a line drive along the right field line for a single. 2B Drew Garcia bounced to third, where Tribe 3B Hector Luna made the scoop and fired over to second base for the force out on Golson. Golson’s slide made 2B Anderson Hernandez leap up to stay out of his way, and so there was no time for the relay throw to first base. 3B Brent Morel and 1B Seth Loman both singled, with Loman driving in Garcia with the first run of the game. Indiana native (who had a whole section of home-town fans in the stands) C Josh Phegley slammed a 3-run homer over the left field wall, and the Knights had a 4-0 lead.
The 2nd inning began with a single through the left side of the infield by SS Carlos Sanchez. He stole second base, and moved to third on a ground out, then scored on Golson’s sacrifice fly. Back-to-back doubles, by Garcia and Morel followed, driving in Garcia for the second run of the inning, and a 6-0 lead for the Knights. Cole came back out to begin the 3rd inning. He gave up a line drive single to Phegley, followed by a double just inside the left field line to CF Trayce Thompson. That was enough for manager Dean Treanor to see, and Cole had an early trip to the showers. Cole had thrown just 47 pitches (31 strikes), and was ultimately responsible for 8 runs on 9 hits, no walks, with one strikeout.
Bryan Morris came on to take over for Cole, but some of Cole’s gremlins must have been left on the mound. The first thing Morris did was to throw a wild pitch, allowing Phegley to score from third. After a strike out, Sanchez blooped an RBI single into left field, driving in Thompson. A ground out gave Morris the second out of the inning, then Golson singled up the middle, plating Sanchez from second base. The throw in from CF Starling Marte to the plate was not in time and to the first-base side of the plate. C Ramon Cabrera made the catch, then alertly fired the ball to second base. Golson was trying to advance to second on the throw, but Cabrera’s throw to SS Chase d’Arnaud covering was in time for d’Arnaud to tag out Golson, ending the inning. Knights now leading 9-0.
At the same time, Charlotte starter Charlie Shirek was holding off the Indians. In the first two innings, d’Arnaud took a walk, but was thrown out trying to steal second base, and Yamaico Navarro doubled off the left field wall, but was left on base. The Indians got to Shirek in the 3rd. With one out, Cabrera bounced a grounder off Shirek’s glove and over towards second base, then beat out the throw to first, for an infield hit. Marte walked, then d’Arnaud slipped a grounder under the glove of Knight’s 3B Morel and down the left field line. That 2-RBI double drove in both Cabrera and Marte. Luna followed with a single up the middle, bringing in d’Arnaud from second base. 1B Matt Hague also singled in the inning, but he and Luna were left on base. The Indians had at least cracked the scoreboard — Knights leading, 9-3.
Charlotte added two more runs in the top of the 4th. Bryan Morris started the inning by putting three runners on base without a hit — a walk to Garcia, Morel hit by a pitch, and a walk to Loman. At that point, Morris was relieved in favor of Daniel McCutchen. Like in the 3rd inning, McCutchen threw a wild pitch, which allowed Garcia to score from third, and the other two runners to move up one base each. McCutchen loaded the bases again by walking Phegley. A strike out gave McCutchen his first out, then LF Jared Mitchell grounded weakly toward first base. Hague had to charge in to get the ball, and he made the out on Mitchell by reaching over to tag him out as he ran by. Hague had no other play, but it allowed Morel to score. Another ground out ended the inning, with the Knights leading 11-3.
And yet, the Indians kept fighting. LF Brandon Boggs led off the bottom of the 4th with a single. Hernandez grounded to short for what might have been a double play. Boggs was out at second base, but Hernandez, not usually a particularly fast runner, beat out the throw to first base. He advanced to third base on Cabrera’s second grounder off Shirek’s glove, for an infield single. Marte lashed a liner into center field, driving in Hernandez. That brought up Chase d’Arnaud, who cleared the bases with a 3-run homer over the left-center field wall, bringing the Indians closer, 11-7.
The Indians added one more in the 5th. Navarro singled into right field, then scored on Hernandez’s drive off the wall in right field. Knight’s RF Brandon Short had the ball sail over his head, then he got too close to the wall to properly play the carom, giving Navarro plenty of time to race around the bases. Indians a bit closer, 11-8.
Daniel McCutchen made a huge contribution in the middle innings. After he finished the 4th inning with a strikeout and two ground outs, McCutchen went on to retire the Knights in order in the 5th and 6th innings. It gave the Indians a chance to catch their breaths in the field, and it kept the Indians’ goal from moving further away. McCutchen did allow a run in the 7th inning, on a pair of doubles by Mitchell and Short. McCutchen pitched 4 innings, and allowed one run on two hits, one walk, and one strikeout. He threw 56 pitches (38 strikes), in what was a relatively long outing for him.
Evan Meek took the mound to relieve McCutchen for the start of the 8th. Meek also had a tough start, as the first three batters reached base safely. Garcia doubled along the right field line, Morel walked, and Loman drove in Garcia with a single into center field. Morel advanced to third base on a fly out, then he scored on Thompson’s sacrifice fly. Knights taking a bigger lead, 14-8.
And the Indians were still not done. This time they were the ones to put the first three batters of the inning on base. Marte was hit by a pitch (left shoulder or arm), d’Arnaud rocketed a line drive into right field, and Luna zipped another line drive into center field, which plated Marte. RF Dallas McPherson lifted a short fly ball into right-center, which fell in for a single, driving in d’Arnaud. The Knights changed relievers, with one out and runners on first and second. Yamaico Navarro greeted the new pitcher, Jhan Marinez, with a no-doubter blast over the left field wall, for a 3-run homer. That was 5 runs in the inning, and the Indians were within one run of the Knights, 14-13.
Doug Slaten came on to pitch the top of the 9th for the Indians. He quickly put the Knights down in order, taking just 9 pitches. The Indians then had one more chance to finally catch up to the Knights. But it was not to be — a fly out and two strikeouts retired the Indians in order in the bottom of the 9th, and the Knights had their second win of the series. Gerrit Cole was charged with the loss.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: Many good hits, but particularly the 3-run homers by Chase d’Arnaud and Yamaico Navarro, which kept the Indians in the game. Navarro went 3-for-5, with a single, a double, and the homer, with 3 RBI. D’Arnaud also went 3-for-5, also with a single, a 2-RBI double, and the homer, for 5 RBI. “I think out coaching staff did a great job of keeping us in it,” said d’Arnaud after the game. “They were very supportive, saying, ‘All right, let’s get back in this. Let’s chip away. Let’s stay aggressive.’ That became our mentality and our identity over the next seven innings after that, all the way up until the end. I feel like both sides have momentum offensively, and from a pitching standpoint, just the opposite. When everybody’s hitting together and stringing hits like that, it’s contagious. We might be in for some more games like that coming up.”
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: Also d’Arnaud. In the top of the 5th, with Daniel McCutchen on the mound, Brandon Short led off with a grounder deep into the hole at short. It looked like a sure hit. But d’Arnaud was not convinced. He went back and to his right, and at the last possible second made a diving backhand catch. Then he hopped up and fired over to first base, where Matt Hague stretched out completely to make the catch a split second before Short reached the base.
The Pawtucket Red Sox have won the first two games in their 5-game series against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, in the other half of the IL playoffs. They began their series in Pawtucket, and next will move to Rochester, NY, where the Yankees have been “at home” guests this season.