When starting pitcher Corey Kluber struck out Jerry Sands to open the top of the seventh inning of Sunday afternoon’s game at Huntington Park, the Columbus Clippers appeared to have seized the high ground over the Indianapolis Indians. Five Clippers’ tallies over the fourth and fifth innings had cooled off hot Indianapolis starter Andy Oliver. Columbus’ 5-2 lead presented a clear eight-out path to victory.
Few could have foreseen the seismic shift that followed.
Before Columbus could record another out, ten consecutive Indians had reached base and nine had crossed home plate. Indianapolis, seemingly drifting to a third defeat in four games in Ohio’s capital city, now stood clearly in command, and the Indians did not relinquish their advantage until they secured a 12-7 victory.
The nine-run counterattack included a little bit of everything. It had table-setting at-bats (back-to-back singles by Tony Sanchez and Ivan De Jesus Jr. to start the rally). It had steel-nerved patience (Darren Ford laying off a high 3-2 fastball to force in the first run). It had opportunistic base running (Oscar Tejeda alertly scoring the tying run from second when Clippers’ first baseman Mike McDade’s bid for a force at the plate strayed off-target and the ball rolled to the backstop without anyone around to back up). And it had solidly struck clutch hitting (Brett Carroll’s two-run single and two-run doubles by Jared Goedert and Sanchez).
Sanchez joined the afternoon’s action under unusual circumstances—the home plate umpire ejected starting catcher Brian Jeroloman in the fourth inning for protesting Columbus third baseman Ryan Rohlinger’s second consecutive trip to first on catcher’s interference—but his offensive contributions proved significant. Sanchez started modestly, singling to center with one out in the fifth and coming around to score when Tejeda, showing opposite-field power, drove a Kluber offering high off the wall near the 365 sign in right center for a double.
Two innings later, Sanchez scored the first run of the nine-run outburst and drove in tallies #8 and #9. He concluded his successful day by drawing a walk in the top of the ninth. Sanchez entered Saturday with only one hit in fifteen at-bats in 2013, but his two-run single in Saturday’s nightcap and Sunday afternoon suggest stirrings of life at the plate.
Oliver began Sunday’s game with early spring trendlines waxing almost as positive as Sanchez’s waned negative: his first two starts of 2013 had yielded an eleven-inning scoreless streak. Through three innings against Columbus, Oliver maintained that trend; his fastball reached 95 miles per hour in each inning, his off-speed work kept the Clippers off balance, and the Indians enjoyed a 1-0 lead on Brett Carroll’s second-inning home run to dead center.
But the left-hander’s hot streak cooled in the next two frames: Columbus posted three runs in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth, and Oliver left the game before he could record the second out in the fifth inning. During those two fateful innings, Oliver issued his only three walks of the game; he also allowed big hits to Cedric Hunter (a two-run single on a hanging off-speed pitch in the fourth inning), Cord Phelps (a well-hit double to center to start the fifth), and Mike McDade (a booming RBI double to right in the fifth).
Tim Alderson, recalled from AA Altoona to parallel Phil Irwin’s call-up to the Pirates, replaced Oliver and limited the Clippers to a single run over 3.2 innings, giving the Indians the opportunity for their seventh-inning rally.
The victory improves Indianapolis’ season mark to 7-4, good for first place in the IL West. They head north for a three-game series with Toledo, starting on Monday at 6:30; Brandon Cumpton will make his first AAA start against the Mud Hens.