Game #77 at Florida

Dolphin Stadium | 7:05 | Van Benschoten vs. Sergio Mitre | Box Jim Tracy stresses the importance of throwing strikes. It’s clear that skipper believes that the ticket to a pitcher’s success lies in his ability to hammer the zone. Tonight, John Van Benschoten threw 81 pitches. Only 39 were strikes! Terrible, absolutely horrible. He walked five batters in four innings. In three starts, he’s walked 10 and struck out...

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Tribe Sink Clippers, Ending Losing Streak

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
The Indianapolis Indians were tired of being on the losing end of things, and 5 straight losses were enough. So they took it out on the Columbus Clippers tonight, beating the Clippers by a score of 5-1 at Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Shane Youman was again the pitcher who ended a losing streak, as he got his 4th win of the season, and his 4th road win.
“Everyone knew we were in the midst of a five-game losing streak — that was no secret”, said Youman in an interview after the game. “We have a good team, and I knew it was just a matter of time until we bounced back.”
The Indians got right into it in the top of the first inning. RF Don Kelly led things off with his first hit as an Indian, a single to center field. SS Brian Bixler followed with a liner into right field for a triple, scoring Kelly. Bixler scored on CF Matt Kata’s sacrifice fly. 1B Brad Eldred singled, but was caught stealing on the second half of a strike out/throw out double play with LF Michael Ryan, ending the inning.
Brad Eldred -- photo by NancyZ
The Clippers’ starter, Emiliano Fruto, held the Indians to just a single and a walk over the next four innings. The Tribe got to Fruto in the 6th inning, though. Brian Bixler led off with a single up the middle. Matt Kata flied out for one out. Then the Indians hit three consecutive hits: Brad Eldred (photo) doubled, scoring Bixler; Michael Ryan singled, moving Eldred to third base; 3B Russ Johnson doubled, scoring Eldred and moving Ryan to third base. That was the end of the evening for Fruto, and right-hander Levale Speigner entered the game. He first faced 2B Luis Ordaz, whose sacrifice fly scored Ryan. Einar Diaz walked, and when the fourth ball was a wild pitch, Russ Johnson attempted to score — but he was thrown out at the plate on the throw from Clippers’ C Juan Brito to pitcher Speigner.
Shane Youman, the starter for the Indians, pitched 6.2 scoreless innings. He gave up 3 hits and 5 walks, while striking out 4 batters. In the first inning, the Clippers’ lead off man CF Rogearvin Bernadina walked, but was picked off first base by Youman. 2B Kory Casto also walked, but was stranded on base. 1B Brent Abernathy singled in the second inning, but he was caught attempting to steal second base.
“Tonight was all about bearing down and throwing good pitches”, said Youman. “I’m throwing more strikes and beginning to trust my stuff. My teammates also made some great plays behind me. I just wanted to help us get a win, and that’s what I did.”
Getting the pick off in the first inning was key for Youman. “I’ve been working with (manager) Trent (Jewett) on my pick-off move. Runners were catching on because my move to first was different than my delivery to the plate. I’ve been trying to make those moves look the same. It was just a matter of trusting t he concepts that I’ve been working on before each game.”

Shane Youman -- photo by NancyZ
Youman (photo) allowed the lead off batter to reach base, either by a single or a walk, in each of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings. In each case, though, Youman promptly retired the next three batters in order. He also put the side down in order in the 6th inning. Youman again started the 7th inning by walking the first batter, and getting the next two batters out. At that point, Youman had thrown 108 pitches (64 strikes), and manager Trent Jewett elected to bring in Mark Corey to relieve Youman. Corey quickly retired pinch hitter Melvin Dorta to end the inning.
Corey remained in the game to pitch the 8th inning. This was the first inning in which the Clippers managed to get more than one runner on base, and finally to score. The lead off batter again got on base, this time a walk to Bernadina, and in this inning the lead off walk came back to haunt the Tribe. Bernie Castro grounded to 3B Russ Johnson, who got Bernadina out at second base, but the relay to first base was not in time to get Castro. Back-to-back singles by Kory Casto and Michael Restovich scored Castro, and another single by Abraham Nunez loaded the bases. Pinch hitter Larry Broadway came to the plate to face the new Indians’ pitcher, Franquelis Osoria. Broadway grounded the 1-1 pitch right to 2B Luis Ordaz, to start a double play: Ordaz to SS Brian Bixler to 1B Brad Eldred. That ended the inning, allowing only one run to score. Osoria then set the side down in order in the 9th inning.
After Columbus starter Fruto gave up 5 runs in his 5.1 innings, the Clippers’ relievers were able to hold the Indians’ batters scoreless. Speigner pitched 1.2 innings, and did allow one of the runners he inherited from Fruto to score, but then set the Tribe batters down in order in the 7th inning. Winston Abreu came on to pitch the last two innings for Columbus. In the 8th, he struck out the side in order. In the top of the 9th, he struck out four Tribe batters. A wild pitch on the third strike to Luis Ordaz allowed Ordaz to reach first base safely, but Abreu simply struck out the next two batters.
Fruto took the loss for Columbus, his 4th of the season. Shane Youman won his 4th game of the season, and Franquelis Osoria got his 7th save.
Indians’ hitting gems of the game: Brian Bixler went 2 for 4, with a triple and an RBI. Brad Eldred also went 2 for 4, with a double and an RBI.
Luis Ordaz -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: The inning-ending double play in the bottom of the 8th inning. With the bases loaded and one out, pinch hitter Larry Broadway hit a grounder which Luis Ordaz (photo) scooped, threw to Brian Bixler covering second base, and on to Brad Eldred at first. It kept more runs from scoring and ended what could have been a big Columbus rally.
NOTES:
Michael Ryan’s hit in the 6th inning increased his hitting streak to 7 games.
Brian Bixler’s triple in the 1st inning was his 8th of the season, leading the league.
Yurendell de Caster sat out again tonight, still having back strain.
Shane Youman has earned all of his four wins on the road. Is there some magic to that? Should he have the team wear their road uniforms for his next start at Victory Field? “We were joking around about that in the clubhouse before the game”, said Youman. “I don’t know if (General Manager) Cal (Burleson) will go for that.”
Go Tribe!

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Game #76 at Florida

Dolphin Stadium | 7:05 | Maholm vs. Dontrelle Willis | Box The Paul Maholm we saw in Spring Training is starting to return, I think. Maholm worked into the eighth inning, the offense received contributions from unexpected sources and the Pirates beat the Marlins, 3-2. In seven of his 16 starts, Maholm has thrown seven innings or more. In his last three outings, he’s pitched 21.2 innings, allowing 7 earned runs, 15 hits and 5...

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OUR Indians First Half MVP

The votes have been tallied — some came in on “comments”, some were emailed privately, and some were told to me verbally.
OUR Indians MVP for the first half of the season is….
Yurendell de Caster.
“De” is one of the most versatile players you will ever see. He can play outfield, first base, third base, second base, and in a pinch, he can even catch a bit. He has played more first base than ever this season, and has become very comfortable at that spot. Since Brad Eldred joined the team, De has played more frequently in the outfield, with his usual efficiency.
While he started off the season slowly at the plate, by the third week of April, he was hitting over .300, and hasn’t looked back. He is currently leading the Indians with a .317 average, which has him tied for 5th in the International League. He is tied for the league lead in on-base percentage with .426. De has hit 14 doubles, one triple, and 3 homers, with 29 RBI, while walking 40 times. The walk totals are the highest he’s ever had in his career (in 2006, he walked 35 times in the entire season). The difference this season has been more patience at the plate which has allowed him to see more hitter’s counts at the plate, get more hits, and secondarily, get more walks. His splits show that he hits .365 at home and .276 on the road. De has stolen 10 bases in 16 attempts, so when he does get on base, opposing pitchers can’t just ignore him. Read more about De’s past seasons here.
For excellence both at the plate and in the field, Yurendell de Caster is our MVP for the first half of 2007.
Um, no, unfortunately there is no plaque or watch or ring or even a beer that goes with this award. Just our thanks and our continued cheering and support.
Runner-up:
Bryan Bullington
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
Right-handed starter Bullington is currently tied for the league lead in number of wins on the season, with 9. His overall record is 9-4, in 14 starts, with a 3.43 ERA. Prior to his last two starts, though his record was 9-2, with a 2.75 ERA. He has 47 strikeouts, second highest on the team, and 34 walks. Bryan has a better ERA at home –.292– than on the road — 3.89. He was the Indians’ Player of the Month for April. Bryan has had an excellent start to the season, particularly in view of the fact that he missed all of the 2006 season due to surgery.
Read more about Bryan’s last couple of seasons here, and read an interview with Bryan.

Also getting votes:
Rajai Davis
Rajai Davis -- photo by NancyZ
Rajai spent the first two months of 2007 with the Indians. He was hitting .318 with a 21 game hitting streak when he was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 4th. Rajai had hit 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 home runs with 30 RBI at that time. But Rajai’s biggest asset is his speed. When he got the call from the Pirates, he was leading the league with 27 stolen bases — more than some entire teams had. It wasn’t just that he was taking the bases, either. It was as much how he made the opposing pitchers uncomfortable on the mound. They could never relax with Rajai on base, because they knew he was always thinking of running — they just never knew when. That disruption of the pitchers’ concentration led to more hits by the batters following Rajai, and more Indians’ runs.
Since being called up to the Pirates, Rajai has appeared in 8 games, and he has a .211 batting average, with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts. One of his hits was a triple — his speed can create a triple where some other batter/base runners might have to settle for a double.
Read more about Rajai Davis here.
Brian Bixler
Brian Bixler -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ shortstop Brian Bixler is having an excellent season, particularly since this is his first taste of AAA-level baseball. Brian’s batting average is currently .297, though it has been over .300 for most of the season. He leads the team in triples, with 7. He also has 11 doubles and 4 homers, with 30 RBI. Brian’s splits are even more interesting. He is hitting .353 against left-handed pitching, and .276 against right-handers. He is batting .347 at home, and .268 on the road, and he’s hitting .343 with runners in scoring position. He also has 17 stolen bases, and until just last week he had not been caught stealing at all.
In the field, Brian has been outstanding. He can go deep in the hole and come up with balls that looked certain to get through to the outfield. He can scoop up a ball and start the double play, or make the sure catch and relay throw in the middle of the double play. Bixler has also played a few games at second base, showing his range in the opposite direction.
Read more about Brian here.
Einar Diaz
Einar Diaz -- photo by NancyZ
Einar initially joined the team as the back-up catcher, but when Carlos Maldonado broke his hand, Einar stepped up to more regular catching duties. He has appeared in 35 games for the Indians, and is batting .265, with a .331 OBP. He has 8 doubles and 2 home runs, with 13 RBI. Einar is hitting .361 against left handed pitching, and .300 with runners on base. He has also stolen 5 bases this season.
Behind the plate, Einar is known to work well with the pitching staff, and he has the reputation of being able to get to and stop almost any pitch that is thrown — not many get past him. He’s always got a smile on his face, and is willing to do whatever the team needs from him. Last year, he even pitched for the Buffalo Bison when an extra pitcher was needed!
Read more about Einar here.
Go Tribe!

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A Quick Draft Note or Two

I headed over to Baseball Think Factory this morning with the idea of comparing the Pirates’ current stats to where the ZiPS system projected they would be, but I got sidetracked. (I’m grateful; that would’ve been another depressing post in a long string of depressing posts.) What caught my eye was a shadow draft conducted three weeks ago. Mike Emeigh, a fantastic analyst of prospects (and a member of the black and...

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Indians Swept by Mud Hens

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
The Toledo Mud Hens swept the four-game series from the Indianapolis Indians at Fifth-Third Field in Toledo, winning tonight’s game by a blow-out score of 9-1. The win puts the second place Indians two games behind the first place Mud Hens.
There was trouble right from the start, in the top of the 1st inning. Indians’ right hander Bryan Bullington (photo) made his first appearance since missing a start due to stiffness and discomfort in his right shoulder. The inning opened with Bullington walking the first two batters, SS Ramon Santiago and 2B Kevin Hooper, on 9 pitches. LF Timo Perez grounded out, moving the runners to second and third. CF Ryan Raburn also walked, to load the bases. Bullington struck out 1B Chris Shelton, but then big hitter 3B Mike Hessman lined a double to the left field wall, scoring all three base runners. Another big hitter, DH Jack Hannahan singled, to score Hessman. Finally, RF David Espinosa hit a fly out to end the inning with the Mud Hens up by 4 runs.
The second inning started a bit better for Bullington. C Dane Sardinha hit a fly ball for the first out. Ramon Santiago doubled into center field, and things started to look scary again. But Bullington got some help from his outfield, when LF Michael Ryan ran way back and made a catch with his back to the infield to put away Kevin Hooper, and CF Matt Kata ran in and made a diving catch to put away Timo Perez and end the threat.
Jesse Chavez  -- photo by NancyZ
The Mud Hens did it again in the 3rd inning. Bryan Bullington came out to start the inning, and got the first out easily on a fly ball to centerfield. Then a single by Chris Shelton and a walk to Mike Hessman spelled the end of the evening for Bryan Bullington. Bullington had thrown 63 pitches (35 for strikes) over 2.1 innings, and gave up 4 hits and 4 walks. Jesse Chavez entered the game in relief. Chavez was greeted by Jack Hannahan’s single, scoring Shelton and moving Hessman to third base. Chavez struck out David Espinosa, but then gave up back-to-back singles to Dane Sardinha, to score Hessman, and Ramon Santiago, to move the runners to second and third bases. Kevin Hooper then flied out to end the inning, but with the score extended to 6-0.

Brian Bixler  -- photo by NancyZ
(photo — Brian Bixler )
There was another threat by the Mud Hens in the 4th inning. With Jesse Chavez still on the mound for the Tribe, the first out came quickly on a line out to right field by Timo Perez. Ryan Raburn singled, and Chris Shelton produced another out when he swung at strike three. Then Mike Hessman hit a bomb — which, luckily for the Indians, curved foul at the last moment, and was a long strike rather than a 2-run homer. Hessman worked a walk, and was still on first base when Chavez got Jack Hannahan to look at strike three and end the inning without any scoring. Chavez came back tough in the 5th inning, and for the first time in the game, set the Mud Hens down in order.
Meanwhile, Mud Hens starter Yorman Basardo had been keeping the Indians’ batters under control. He scattered three hits and one walk in the first 6 innings, with the Indians never getting more than one base runner in an inning.
Luis Ordaz -- photo by NancyZ
(photo — Luis Ordaz)
Kevin Gryboski, fresh off the DL, came on to pitch in the 6th inning. He gave a single to Kevin Hooper, and a walk to Ryan Raburn, and then another single to Chris Shelton, to load the bases with one out, and the dangerous Mike Hessman at the plate. A wild pitch from Gryboski that C Humberto Cota couldn’t handle allowed Kevin Hooper to score, and the other baserunners to move up a base. Then Hessman looped a single into left field, scoring two more runners, Raburn and Shelton. A walk to Jack Hannahan put men on first and second, still with one out. David Espinosa struck out for the second time in the game, and a diving stop deep in the hole behind shortstop by Indians’ Brian Bixler for a force out at second base ended the inning — with the score at 9-0. At this point, the Indians’ radio broadcasters started talking about the possibility of one of the position players, maybe Einar Diaz or Matt Kata, making a pitching appearance.
Josh Sharpless -- photo by NancyZ
Instead of a position player, Josh Sharpless (photo) took over on the mound for Kevin Gryboski in the 7th inning. Sharpless started by giving up an infield single to Ramon Santiago, when Santiago beat out the barehanded scoop-and-throw by 3B Russ Johnson. But before the situation could get out of hand, Russ Johnson made another scoop of a grounder from Kevin Hooper and started a double play: Johnson to Luis Ordaz at second to Brad Eldred at first. A pop up by Timo Perez to Brad Eldred ended the inning. Sharpless also pitched the 8th inning, giving up two walks, but getting out of it without allowing the runners to score.
Mud Hens’ starter Basardo went 7 innings, giving up only 4 hits and one walk, while striking out three Indians. He was relieved in the 8th inning by right hander Preston Larrison. Brian Bixler led off with a single, and he moved to second base when Larrison threw a wild pitch. Luis Ordaz also singled, and the speedy Bixler came around from second base to score, finally putting the Indians on the scoreboard. Don Kelly grounded to the second baseman Hooper, who threw to SS Santiago at second base to force out Ordaz, but Kelly beat the relay throw to first, for a fielder’s choice. Russ Johnson grounded into a double play, though, to end the inning. Larrison also pitched the 9th inning, hitting Brad Eldred with a pitch, but retiring three other batters without any difficulty.
Mud Hens’ Bazardo took the win, his 6th of the season. Bryan Bullington got the loss for the Indians, his 4th, giving up 6 runs in 2.1 innings. Kevin Gryboski gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in one inning. Josh Sharpless threw 2 scoreless innings. Jesse Chavez also threw 2.2 scoreless innings but he was not pleased with his work, in which he allowed two base runners inherited from starter Brian Bullington to score.
“I gave up the starter’s (Bullington’s) runs and that irritates me”, said Chavez. “The starter never deserves for a reliever to come in and give up (his) runs. Bullington was out there pitching his tail off, and I would rather give up my runs than his.”
The Indians will be taking the bus to Columbus after the game, leaving Toledo as soon as humanly possible, I’m sure. They won’t return to Toledo until August 20th. Said reliever Jesse Chavez after the game: “We have been playing well all year, and we can’t base the whole season on one series. All we can do is keep hitting the ball and pitching well, like we’ve done all season.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: The Indians had only 6 hits in the game, all singles, and Luis Ordaz had two of them, including the RBI single in the 8th, to score Brian Bixler.
Indians’ defensive gems of the game: The first two were in the second inning, when outfielders Matt Kata and Michael Ryan made outstanding catches on two foul balls, ending the inning. The third was the double play turned in the 7th inning, 3B Russ Johnson to 2B Luis Ordaz to 1B Brad Eldred, to get out of the inning.
NOTES:
John Wasdin  -- photo by NancyZ
Roster Moves:
With Jonah Bayliss heading towards Indy, someone from Indy has to be heading towards Pittsburgh — or at least meeting up with the Pirates in Florida. That will be John Wasdin. He is being taken off the Disabled List, and will join the Pirates for their series in Florida starting on Tuesday. Wasdin made 5 appearances, all starts, with the Indians. His record was 1-1, with a 5.97 ERA in 28.2 innings, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He pitched progressively longer in each outing, working his way up to 8 innings in the last start on Friday. He did not walk anyone in that whole time, and in his last two starts, he struck out 12 in 7.2 innings, and 9 in 8 innings, and he had an ERA of 4.14 in those two starts.
With Wasdin in Pittsburgh, Michael Tejera will take his place in the starting rotation.
RHP Kevin Gryboski was activated off the Disabled List today. He had been placed on the DL on May 17th, with tendonitis in his left knee.
C Carlos Maldonado was placed on the temporary inactive list.
Awards:
OF Michael Ryan was named the International League Hitter of the Week for last week. He has had an extra-base hit in each of his last 5 games. In the past week, Ryan has hit .481 (13 for 27) with 2 homers, a triple, and 4 doubles, 7 runs scored, and 5 RBI. He had an infield single tonight, to extend his hitting streak to 6 games.
Go Tribe!

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