Syracuse Snap Indians’ Streak

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The Indianapolis Indians’ winning streak ended at 5 games, as the Syracuse Chiefs hung on for the win tonight, 4- 2 over the Tribe. The Indians have had one other 5 game winning streak earlier this season, but haven’t been able to make it 6 in a row.
Russ Johnson -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians put up 8 hits, but were able to score only two runs. 3B Russ Johnson (photo by NancyZ )went 3 for 4 on the night, including a double and an RBI. The Tribe’s runs came in the 4th inning, off Chief’s reliever Andrew Good, who entered the game in the 3rd inning after an injury to starter Ismael Ramirez. The two runs came on three doubles. C Humberto Cota was first to double, followed by Russ Johnson’s double, scoring Cota. 2B Nick Green doubled, to plate Johnson.
The Indians threatened in the second inning, when LF Michael Ryan and Russ Johnson hit back-to-back singles with one out. But a fly out and a grounder ended the inning without a run scoring. In the 6th inning, Johnson again singled, and RF Luis Matos reached base when he was hit by a pitch. Once again, though, they were left stranded when two more outs ended the inning.
With starter Ramirez having to leave the game in the 3rd inning, the Chiefs had to rely on a bullpen combo to finish the game. Good pitched 1.1 innings and gave up the 2 runs on 3 hits. Ryan Houston came next, pitching 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit, and getting his first win. Jim Crowell pitched 2 scoreless innings, also giving up one hit. Brian Wolfe pitched to only two batters, getting two outs. Blaine Neal earned a save by pitching the last inning, striking out two.

John Van Benschoten -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ starter John Van Benschoten (photo by NancyZ ) could only manage 4 innings, but it took him 95 pitches, and he allowed one run in each of those innings. He gave up 7 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5 batters. He took the loss, his third of the season.
In the first inning, Chief’s SS Ray Olmedo led off with a triple to center field, and he scored on a single by 2B Howie Clark. In the second inning, C Erik Kratz started the rally by being hit by a pitch. CF Wayne Lydon struck out by reached first base when the third strike was a wild pitch. Consecutive singles by Ray Olmedo and C Curtis Thigpen moved Kratz around to score.
Syracuse’s third run came on a single by LF John-Ford Griffin and an RBI double by RF Chad Mottola. The last Syracuse run, in the 4th inning, came on a single by Thigpen, walks to 2B Howie Clark and 1B Kevin Barker to load the bases, and a sacrifice fly by Griffin.
“I struggled out of the gate with some long innings, and that never helps”, said Van Benschoten after the game. “The turning point in tonight’s game was in the bottom of the second when [Syracuse CF Wayne] Lydon reached first on the strike out wild pitch. He is by far their fastest runner, and it felt like that added a couple of innings to my outing tonight.”
Brian Rogers pitched 3 innings in relief for the Indians. He gave up only one run and two walks, dropping his ERA to 1.42. Nick Peterson finished the game for the Tribe, giving up one hit in the scoreless 9th.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Three doubles in one inning, by Humberto Cota, Russ Johnson, and Nick Green, to score two runs.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Brian Rogers pitching three scoreless innings, to stop the Chiefs in their tracks and end the scoring.
NOTES:
Chris Truby left yesterday’s game with some back stiffness. No word on how he was doing today, but he didn’t play in tonight’s game.
The Indians play one more game in Syracuse tomorrow (Friday) and then it’s on to Buffalo for four against the Bison.

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Syracuse Snap Indians’ Streak

boxscore
The Indianapolis Indians’ winning streak ended at 5 games, as the Syracuse Chiefs hung on for the win tonight, 4- 2 over the Tribe. The Indians have had one other 5 game winning streak earlier this season, but haven’t been able to make it 6 in a row.
Russ Johnson -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians put up 8 hits, but were able to score only two runs. 3B Russ Johnson (photo by NancyZ )went 3 for 4 on the night, including a double and an RBI. The Tribe’s runs came in the 4th inning, off Chief’s reliever Andrew Good, who entered the game in the 3rd inning after an injury to starter Ismael Ramirez. The two runs came on three doubles. C Humberto Cota was first to double, followed by Russ Johnson’s double, scoring Cota. 2B Nick Green doubled, to plate Johnson.
The Indians threatened in the second inning, when LF Michael Ryan and Russ Johnson hit back-to-back singles with one out. But a fly out and a grounder ended the inning without a run scoring. In the 6th inning, Johnson again singled, and RF Luis Matos reached base when he was hit by a pitch. Once again, though, they were left stranded when two more outs ended the inning.
With starter Ramirez having to leave the game in the 3rd inning, the Chiefs had to rely on a bullpen combo to finish the game. Good pitched 1.1 innings and gave up the 2 runs on 3 hits. Ryan Houston came next, pitching 1.2 scoreless innings, giving up one hit, and getting his first win. Jim Crowell pitched 2 scoreless innings, also giving up one hit. Brian Wolfe pitched to only two batters, getting two outs. Blaine Neal earned a save by pitching the last inning, striking out two.

John Van Benschoten -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ starter John Van Benschoten (photo by NancyZ ) could only manage 4 innings, but it took him 95 pitches, and he allowed one run in each of those innings. He gave up 7 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 5 batters. He took the loss, his third of the season.
In the first inning, Chief’s SS Ray Olmedo led off with a triple to center field, and he scored on a single by 2B Howie Clark. In the second inning, C Erik Kratz started the rally by being hit by a pitch. CF Wayne Lydon struck out by reached first base when the third strike was a wild pitch. Consecutive singles by Ray Olmedo and C Curtis Thigpen moved Kratz around to score.
Syracuse’s third run came on a single by LF John-Ford Griffin and an RBI double by RF Chad Mottola. The last Syracuse run, in the 4th inning, came on a single by Thigpen, walks to 2B Howie Clark and 1B Kevin Barker to load the bases, and a sacrifice fly by Griffin.
“I struggled out of the gate with some long innings, and that never helps”, said Van Benschoten after the game. “The turning point in tonight’s game was in the bottom of the second when [Syracuse CF Wayne] Lydon reached first on the strike out wild pitch. He is by far their fastest runner, and it felt like that added a couple of innings to my outing tonight.”
Brian Rogers pitched 3 innings in relief for the Indians. He gave up only one run and two walks, dropping his ERA to 1.42. Nick Peterson finished the game for the Tribe, giving up one hit in the scoreless 9th.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Three doubles in one inning, by Humberto Cota, Russ Johnson, and Nick Green, to score two runs.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Brian Rogers pitching three scoreless innings, to stop the Chiefs in their tracks and end the scoring.
NOTES:
Chris Truby left yesterday’s game with some back stiffness. No word on how he was doing today, but he didn’t play in tonight’s game.
The Indians play one more game in Syracuse tomorrow (Friday) and then it’s on to Buffalo for four against the Bison.

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Indianapolis Indians: First Quarter

With about a quarter of the 2007 season under their belts, the Indianapolis Indians stand in first place in the International League West Division, leading the second place Louisville Bats by 4 games. The Columbus Clippers are in third place, 6.5 games back, and the Toledo Mud Hens, 7.5 games back. The Indians have an overall record of 24-14 (.632 ), split into 12-10 at home and 12-4 on the road. In fact, they have won 12 of their last 17 games. The Indians have the same number of wins as the other two division leaders in the IL — the Richmond Braves in the south, and the Buffalo Bison in the north — but those two teams have three and two fewer losses respectively, as some teams still have to make up some games that were missed during the first weeks of the season.
Indians' manager Trent Jewett -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ manager Trent Jewett (photo by NancyZ) is pleased with the team’s progress. “Everything has been going fairly smoothly”, said Jewett. “We’ve had our normal bumps and bruises, and times when things haven’t gone as well. But nobody feels sorry for you and you can’t feel sorry for yourself. All in all, it’s been a good run.”
Pitching has been a strong point for the Indians. Tribe pitchers currently have a combined ERA of 3.24, which is third lowest in the league. They are also 8th in the number of hits allowed (326 ), 11th in the number of earned runs allowed (123 ), and tied for lowest number of home runs allowed (17 ). Much to Trent Jewett’s and pitching coach Jeff Andrews’ frustration, they are also 2nd in the league in number of walks allowed (157 ) and last in the league in number of strikeouts (214 ).
Starters Bryan Bullington, Sean Burnett, Shane Youman, and John Van Benschoten have been with the team for the entire season thus far, and they have accounted for 13 of the wins (and 10 of the losses). Marty McLeary had two wins (2-1) in his four starts before being promoted to Pittsburgh. Michael Tejera joined the club at the beginning of May, and he also has a win and two no-decisions.
Bryan Bullington was Player of the Month for April  -- photo by NancyZ
Bullington, who grew up in the Indianapolis area and attended Ball State University, won the Player of the Month Award for April (photo by NancyZ ). His record stands at 6-1, leading the league in wins, with a 2.40 ERA. The right-hander has given up 44 hits and 13 earned runs in 48.2 innings. He also has struck out 25 and walked 21. Bullington did not pitch at all in 2006, as he spent the year rehabbing after shoulder surgery. This is his year to show that he can come back, and he has been doing an excellent job of it.
“It’s been quite remarkable, because of the surgery and the rehab material”, said Jewett of Bullington. “Those things don’t generally come out with the success that he’s had in the early time after trauma like that. It’s a credit to his diligence, his work habits, and his passion for the game.”
Indianapolis fans also enjoy cheering for a home town favorite. “I think people here have familiarity with him and his family’s background, and it’s nice to see homegrown success,” said Jewett. “Hopefully Indianapolis realizes that he has to eventually go to Pittsburgh, but at the same time, you have to focus on now. And he’s done an excellent job of focusing on now.”

John Van Benschoten -- photo by NancyZ
Van Benschoten was last week’s Pitcher of the Week (photo by NancyZ ), and is third in the league in ERA (1.82 ). In his past 4 starts, he has allowed only one earned run. He also missed time due to shoulder surgery, but is now showing the kind of power the Pirates hoped for when he was drafted.
Sean Burnett has a 3-3 record and a 4.33 ERA. The left-hander tends to give up more hits, and in fact he is leading the Tribe pitchers in number of hits allowed (54 ) and number of walks allowed (22 ). He started off with three straight wins, and then had 3 losses and 2 no-decisions in his last 5 starts. However, in his last two losses, he went 7 innings, and gave up only 2 earned runs in each game.
Shane Youman is 1-4 in his 7 starts, with a 5.35 ERA. He has not pitched past the 6th inning in any of his starts, though has not given up any more than 5 earned runs in any start.
Michael Tejera -- photo by NancyZ
Since joining the Tribe, Michael Tejera has started 3 games (photo by NancyZ ). Tejera had not been on an active roster prior to coming to Indianapolis, and his first start was short, pitching only two innings but giving up 5 earned runs and walking three. His second start was a turn around, as he gave up only two hits and one earned run in 5 innings for his first win.
“He had a rough go in his first outing, and it was on extended rest”, said Jewett. “It is just difficult to sit without competition for a month. Mikey is a good competitor, and he’s a very resourceful young man. He came here and threw everything he had, and he really gave us more than we expected.”
The Indians’ bullpen has been solid. In the past 8 games alone, the bullpen crew has collected 4 saves, and has a 3-1 record, with a 1.84 ERA. The group has been hindered by injuries. Dan Kolb, Juan Perez, and Franquelis Osoria are currently on the DL. Kolb leads the bullpen with 3 saves, while Osoria, Josh Sharpless, Brian Rogers, and the newest addition, Chris Hernandez, each have 2 saves. Sharpless, Rogers, Kolb, Jesse Chavez, and Kevin Gryboski each have 13 game appearances. Hernandez has appeared in 4 games, going 6 innings, has given up one hit, and has yet to give up an earned run.
On the other side of things, the Tribe batters have also been off to a good start. The Indians lead the league in team batting, with a .293 AVG and .361 OBP. They are also first in number of hits (376 ) and second in number of runs (195 ). There are four Indians with individual averages over .300: Nyjer Morgan had a .308 AVG before going on the DL a few days ago; Yurendell de Caster is tied for 7th in the league with .331; Luis Ordaz is third with .347; Brian Bixler, new to the AAA level, is second in the league with .358.
Brian Bixler scores -- photo by NancyZ
Bixler started the season off with a 10-game hitting streak, and later had a 12-game hitting streak. Says manager Trent Jewett, “Bixler has gotten off to an excellent start. That’s one of the things you worry about with young players, their perception of how they are doing. If the batting average is high and the run production is good, then the player’s general perception is that things are going well. Now as a manager, you don’t worry about those things. You want the defense to be successful. You want the base running. You want the fundamental things to be in place. But the successes offensively allow for relaxation, and Bixler has made a very good transition.”
Luis Ordaz and Luis Matos have also had extended hitting streaks. Matos is hitting .294, and Rajai Davis is hitting .292. Players visiting from Pittsburgh have also boosted the Tribe. Freddy Sanchez only played in the Indians’ first game of the season, but he had a hit in two at-bats. Ryan Doumit had a .415 AVG in 16 games, with a .717 SLG percentage and 4 home runs, still the most of any Tribe player. Currently Humberto Cota, on a rehab assignment, is hitting .400 in his 8 games with the Tribe, including 2 doubles and 5 RBI. Rajai Davis leads the current roster with 20 RBI (Doumit also had 20 RBI ). De Caster is second with 19, and Bixler and Chris Aguila are tied for third with 18. Chris Aguila’s average may not be high (.227 ), but he has been able to get hits in clutch situations. Russ Johnson is personally not happy with his own situational hitting, though his average is .286, and he has reached base in all but three of his games.
Yurendell de Caster -- photo by NancyZ
Yurendell de Caster (photo by NancyZ ) is leading the team in walks (33), and he has found that being more patient at the plate has also helped him raise his batting average. Jewett has been pleased with what he’s seen from de Caster: “De Caster knows that it is time for him to take the information that Bam-Bam [Meulens] and the others around him have given him, and go out there and use that information and actually put those things into his game. He’s able to get into more hitter’s counts at this point, and he’s done a good job of utilizing the whole field, as opposed to limiting himself to the pull side.”
A interesting aspect to the Indians’ game has been baserunning. Rajai Davis and Nyjer Morgan are currently tied for the league lead with 22 stolen bases apiece, although with Morgan now out for many weeks due to a thumb injury, Davis is going to (literally! ) run away with it. Brian Bixler, Luis Ordaz, and Yurendell de Caster all have 6 stolen bases. The Indians lead the league with a total of 71 stolen bases. In comparison, the Richmond Braves have 46 stolen bases, and the Buffalo Bison have 42 — not even as many as Davis and Morgan together.
Davis steals second -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo: Rajai Davis slides into second — photo by NancyZ )
“Two of the catalysts of this ball club have been Morgan and Davis, with their speed”, said Trent Jewett. “I think I read that they are leading all of baseball as a one-two tandem, and that’s disruptive to the opposition. These guys both play excellent defense, their offense has been consistent, and it is a disruption. Both these kids have a passion for this game, and an understanding of their capabilities, and they use those capabilities to the utmost. The thing I appreciate most is the effort and the passion they bring to this ball club. The common fan as well as the intense fan appreciate them, as does the manager. You have to be cautious as a manager. Not only do the stolen bases take a physical toll, but there’s a mental toll to roaming a big field like center field. You have to be cautious about not beating a player down, especially ones that use so much energy and pour everything they have into their game like they do. It’s something we’ll certainly monitor.”
The Tribe’s defense has pleased Jewett. The Indians’ fielding percentage, .982, is second-highest in the league. They have committed only 27 errors in 1520 chances, and 21 of their games have been errorless. Brian Bixler, at shortstop, has the most errors on the team (8 ), while Nyjer Morgan and Russ Johnson have 3 each.
Einar Diaz -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo: Einar Diaz — photo by NancyZ )
Overall, the team is doing well, and looks like a team that belongs in first place. Injuries have hurt, though other members of the bullpen have been able to step up and pick up the slack. Morgan’s injury is recent, and it’s still a little early to tell what impact his loss will have. Jose Hernandez’s time on the DL will hopefully be short. Carlos Maldonado’s injury (broken hand) will keep him out for a few more weeks, but Einar Diaz has also been able to step in and handle the duties behind the plate, with some help from newcomer David Parrish. Other newcomers, Nick Green and Matt Peterson, along with Chris Hernandez, will be getting more playing time.
Go Tribe!

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More on Why Armas Should be Pulled

Well, Cory has done it. His comment on the Game 40 thread about Dave Littlefield expressing confidence in Armas (or at least expressing doubt that he would be replaced in the rotation) has driven me nuts for the past couple of minutes. So, here are some more thoughts and information: - with an ERA of 8.76 in his first six starts of this year, Armas would need to throw 28 scoreless innings just to bring his ERA down to around league...

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Game #40 vs. Marlins

PNC Park | 7:05 | Armas vs. Ricky Nolasco | Box It was sloppy, but it counts. The Marlins made five miscues. The Pirates totaled only a handful of hits. But the Pirates won to get a split. The underlying story of this game was the saga of Tony Armas Jr. he was pulled early. Shawn Chacon auditioned quite effectively for his spot in the rotation with five shutout innings in relief. Recaps AP recap at Yahoo! Sports Post-Gazette...

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Tribe Bullpen Handles the Chiefs

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Mark Corey made a spot start -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo: Mark Corey came out of the bullpen to make a spot start for the Indians — photo by NancyZ )
On a chilly damp night in Syracuse, the Indians’ bullpen came through for a spot start and a victory over the Syracuse Chiefs by a score of 4-3. It was Shane Youman’s turn to make the start, but he has been battling some minor injuries, and he skipped the start. Instead, reliever Mark Corey came out of the bullpen to make his first start since June 5, 2006, and only his second start since moving to the bullpen in 2000. The plan was for Corey to go at least 3 innings, followed by 2 innings each for Josh Sharpless, Jesse Chavez, and Chris Hernandez. The plan worked well, with each pitcher completing his scheduled innings.
“We knew it was going to be a bullpen day,” said Chris Hernandez after the game. “The four-run fifth really helped. Josh (Sharpless ), Jesse (Chavez ), and I knew the rest was up to us, and we got the job done.”
Michael Ryan had a triple -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo – Michael Ryan tripled to start the Indians’ rally — photo by NancyZ )
Mark Corey did go three innings, having trouble only in the first inning. SS Ray Olmedo led off the inning by lining a single to right field. C Curtis Thigpen grounded to third, but Tribe 3B Chris Truby threw wide and the ball sailed into right field, making Thigpen safe at first and allowing Olmedo to advance to third. Tribe RF Michael Ryan also had trouble throwing the ball back into the infield, and that moved Olmedo to second. 1B Kevin Barker singled, scoring Olmedo. Thigpen moved to third. 2B Howie Clark walked to load the bases. RF Chad Mottola also walked, scoring Thigpen. Corey got the next two batters out on a infield fly and a strikeout, but then DH Erik Kratz walked to force in Barker for the third run. The inning ended when CF Wayne Lydon struck out with the bases still loaded. Of those three runs, only Barker’s was earned.

Josh Sharpless relieved Corey to start the 4th inning. He allowed a single to Erik Kratz and walks to Ray Olmedo and Kevin Barker to load the bases, but got himself out of trouble with a strikeout and two ground outs. Sharpless then pitched a three up–three down 5th inning. Jesse Chavez took his turn, pitching perfect 6th and 7th innings, and Chris Hernandez finished the job by pitching perfect 8th and 9th innings.
Luis Ordaz -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo: Luis Ordaz had a pinch-hit single — photo by NancyZ )
The Indians’ runs also came all in one inning. Chiefs’ starter Michael McDonald pitched 7 innings, giving up 7 hits and 4 runs (all earned ), with three walks. All of the runs came in the 5th inning, when the Tribe batted around. Michael Ryan led off with a line drive to centerfield, that was misplayed by Chiefs’ CF Wayne Lydon, allowing Ryan to reach third base. He scored on 2B Nick Green’s RBI ground out. Luis Ordaz, pinch-hitting for starting 3B Chris Truby, singled and CF Rajai Davis and SS Brian Bixler both walked to load the bases. 1B Yurendell de Caster singled sharply to left field, scoring Ordaz and Davis to tie the score. C Humberto Cota also singled, to right field, which allowed the speedy Bixler to come around from second base to score the go-ahead run.
That was all the scoring in the game. Syracuse starter Michael McDonald took the loss, for his first decision of the season. Mike Venafro and Blaine Neal each pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the Chiefs. Josh Sharpless got the win for the Tribe, his first of the season, and Chris Hernandez got his second save of the season.
Humberto Cota went 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Michael Ryan went 2 for 4, including the triple, which was the only extra-base hit for the Indians. Yurendell de Caster, Cota, and Nick Green accounted for the Tribe’s RBIs.
De Caster had two RBI  -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo: Yurendell de Caster had two RBI — photo by NancyZ )
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: De Caster’s 2-RBI single, which tied the game in the 5th inning.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Brian Bixler started the game at shortstop, but moved to second base when Luis Ordaz entered the game after pinch-hitting in the 5th. In the bottom of the 8th, John Hattig hit a tricky grounder to the right of Bixler, who scrambled over to snatch it, and then turn and fire to pitcher Chris Hernandez who was covering first base.
NOTES:
Nyjer Morgan’s surgery on his thumb was successful. From Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Outfielder Nyjer Morgan, a member of the Pirates’ 40-man roster and leadoff man at Indianapolis, had surgery yesterday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. He is expected to return in 8 – 10 weeks.

Shane Youman, who skipped his previously scheduled start today, is expected to be able to make his next scheduled start in 5 days (Tuesday in Buffalo ).
Brian Bixler has scored in 7 straight games. Ryan Doumit had scored in 5 straight games when he was with the Indians earlier in the season.
Go Tribe!

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