Indians Win Season Finale; Larish Plays 8 Positions, and Reliever Diaz Steals Third
Indianapolis Indians 2, Louisville Bats 0
(Box) (rain shortened again)
The Indianapolis Indians wrapped up the regular season with a rain-shortened win over the Louisville Bats at Louisville Slugger Field this afternoon. Pirates’ pitcher Chad Qualls made the “start” for the Indians, pitching one inning as a rehab appearance. Six more pitchers took turns pitching the rest of the game, which was cut short by heavy rain. The combined pitching staff held the Bats to 3 hits and allowed just one walk in 7 shut-out innings.
The last game of the season can present the opportunity for some fun, and the Indians’ jokester Jeff Larish had a special stunt for today. He played at all defensive positions on the field except for catcher, and only missed that one because the game ended early. Larish began the game in left field, where he often plays. In the 2nd inning, he was in center field, and the radio announcers wondered if they’d made an error in their scorebooks. By the 3rd inning, it was apparent that the scorebooks had been right — Larish was in right field. He played third base in the 4th, shortstop in the 5th, and second base in the 6th. The 7th was split between first base and pitching. The rest of the fielders, other than C Miguel Perez, shuffled themselves around at various positions on the field to accommodate Larish’s switches.
SS Chase d’Arnaud, who is back with the Indians for at least a time, began the game with a bunt along the third base line. Bats’ 3B Mike Costanzo had trouble fielding the ball, and the speedy d’Arnaud beat the throw to first for a single. 2B Anderson Hernandez played the hit-and-run, scooting a grounder through the vacated hole on the right side of the infield as d’Arnaud headed to second base, then proceeded on to third base. 3B Hector Luna walked to load the bases with no outs. 1B Matt Hague bounced into a double play, eliminating Luna at second, but d’Arnaud was able to score from third base, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The Indians put runners on base in 5 of the next 6 innings, but did not score. CF Brandon Boggs singled in the 2nd, but was erased in another double play. D’Arnaud singled in the 3rd and stole second base (his 34 of the season), but was left there. Hague walked in the 4th, and he was also erased in the third double play turned by the Bats. Hernandez singled again in the 6th, and Larish walked in the 7th; both were left stranded.
Chad Qualls, on a rehab assignment, pitched the 1st inning for the Tribe. His strained big toe seems to be just fine — he struck out the three batters he faced, including Reds’ rehabbing Joey Votto. Daniel McCutchen was the only Indians’ pitcher to throw more than one inning. He gave up a two-out single to CF PJ Phillips in the 2nd inning, then had C Perez throw Phillips out trying to steal second base. Jeff Larish made the first out of that inning on a fly ball to center field. McCutchen put the Bats down in order in the 3rd, without the help of Larish, who was in right field.
Jo-Jo Reyes took care of the 4th inning, setting down three Bats in order, with two strikeouts — one by Votto. No fielding chances for Larish in his inning at third base. Duke Welker pitched the 5th inning. He gave up a liner into left field by Costanzo, but Anderson Hernandez, now in left field, played the carom off the left field wall perfectly and turned to throw out Costanzo at second base. The third out of the inning was a lined drive that was headed for left field, but the new shortstop Larish made a leaping catch of the liner, to end the inning.
Larish was at second base when Logan Kensing pitched the 6th, as the rain began. Kensing hit LF Yordanys Perez with a pitch, then gave up a single into left by C Brian Peacock, putting Bats on the corners. P Nick Christiani dropped down a sacrifice bunt, fielded by Hague, who threw to Larish covering first base. That moved Peacock to second base, with Perez holding at third. Neither one advanced any further, as a pop out and a ground out ended the threat.
Jose Diaz came on to pitch the 7th inning, while Larish moved over to take a turn at first base. By this time, the rain was getting heavier. It seemed that there was a good possibility that Larish would not have the full 9 innings to work with. Diaz quickly got the first two outs, then Larish came over from first base to pitch. Hector Luna moved from second base to first, and Diaz moved to second base. The Bats’ fans, who knew what Larish was trying to do, found the prospect of Diaz playing second base just hilarious. Diaz hammed it up, taking a few “warm up” grounders from Luna, and signalling two fingers to the outfielders, indicating there were two outs. Larish first faced Costanzo, who he walked because his pitches were not even close to the strike zone. He got Phillips to swing and miss at one pitch, then Phillips popped up into foul territory near third base for the third out of the inning. At this point, the Bats’ fans were even laughing at their own players who were caught up in Larish’s and Diaz’s antics.
The top of the 8th began with the Indians’ second baseman coming to the plate — Jose Diaz, in only his second professional at-bat. The crowd laughed even more when Diaz made contact, though they did not laugh at 1B Votto, who went to his left to make the play on Diaz’s grounder, and bobbled it. Votto still had time, but he rushed his throw to his pitcher who was covering first base. The throw sailed wide, and Diaz raced to second base on the 2-base error. The Indians’ radio team began joking about how funny it would be if Diaz tried to steal third base — and just as they said it, that’s what happened. Diaz completely surprised the Bats by taking off for third, and he got there standing up, not even drawing a throw, for his first ever stolen base. A line drive into right field by d’Arnaud brought Diaz in from third, with the crowd laughing even more (what else can you do after 92 losses?), to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
After the run scored, Hernandez worked a walk, and that was when the rain picked up even more in intensity. The players were called off the field with runners on first and second, and no outs. The tarp was spread out, and the rain continued. Like yesterday, the required wait of 30 minutes from the time play stopped was waived. After about 10 minutes, the game was officially stopped, and the Indians had the win, 2-0.
Chase d’Arnaud had 3 singles in the game — half of the Indians’ total hits. Anderson Hernandez had 2 hits, and Brandon Boggs had one. Daniel McCutchen was credited with the win, probably because he’d pitched longer than any other of the day’s pitchers. Jeff Larish was credited with a Save.
The win gives the Indians a final record of 89-55, breaking down to 48-24 at home and 41-31 on the road. It is the best record the Indians have had since moving to Victory Field. The Bats finished with a 52-93 record, a franchise worst for number of losses in a season. The Indians won the season series against the Bats for the first time since 2005, with a season record of 18-4.
The playoffs begin on Wednesday, with the Indians hosting the Charlotte Knights at Victory Field. The two teams will play on Wednesday and Thursday at Victory Field, then play game 3, plus 4 and 5 if needed, in Charlotte.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Day: Three hits by Chase d’Arnaud. He scored the first of the Indians’ runs, after his bunt single in the 1st. Then he drove in the Tribe’s second run with an RBI single to drive in Jose Diaz in the 8th.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Day: In the bottom of the 5th, with one out, Mike Costanzo smacked a line drive into left field, played expertly by Anderson Hernandez, who then threw out Costanzo at second base for an outfield assist.
Do you remember the other position player to pitch for the Indians in 2012? It was Brandon Boggs, who pitched one inning against the Pawtucket Red Sox on June 5th. The Indians were trailing 13-2 in the bottom of the 8th that night in Pawtucket, when Boggs took the mound to relieve Jose Diaz to begin the inning. Boggs induced two ground outs and a fly out in his pitching debut. He had never pitched in high school or college.
C Tony Sanchez has a broken left toe, after hitting a foul ball off his foot a couple of days ago. He’s hoping that some rest will let the swelling and pain settle down so that he will be able to play on Wednesday as the playoffs begin.