Johnny V struggles, and Tribe falls

Indians starting pitcher John Van Benschoten struggled with his control in his first start of the 2007 season, and the Tribe lost to 2006 International League champion Toledo Mudhens by a score of 6 to 2 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
Van Benschoten’s troubles started with the Mud Hens’ first batter, walking�2B Kevin Hooper.� 1B�Chris Shelton drove a long fly ball to right field that Indians RF Luis Matos couldn’t quite get�to, for a double.� DH Timo Perez then hit a longer fly ball to left-center, the deepest part of the field.� Tribe LF Rajai Davis chased it and dove for it, but the ball bounced to the wall, giving Perez a double and two RBI as Hooper and Shelton scored.� Van Benschoten settled down a bit at that point, and got three outs on two fly balls and a fielder’s choice.�
The second inning was no problem for Van Benschoten.� It took only 8 pitches for him to get three quick outs.� But the third inning brought the top of the order around again, and they were the batters who gave Van Benschoten the most trouble all evening.� He hit Hooper and Shelton with pitches, and then gave up back-to-back walks to Perez and 3B Mike Hessman, to force in a run.� LF Ryan Raburn struck out, and RF David Espinosa grounded to first base, where Indians’ 1B Yurendell de Caster scooped up the ball and alertly fired it home to force Shelton out at the plate.� But then CF Brent Clevlen walked, forcing in another run.� SS Ramon Santiago then flied out to end the inning.�
The top of the fourth was also difficult.� C Dane Sardinha singled to left field and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice from Kevin Hooper.� Then a balk was called on Van Benschoten, moving Sardinha to third.� Chris Shelton singled to right field, scoring Sardinha, and Van Benschoten’s evening ended.� Brian Rogers entered the game in relief.� He got Timo Perez to fly out to right-center, with a running catch and quick throw back into the infield by Tribe CF Nyjer Morgan.� A strikeout to Hessman ended the inning.� Rogers also pitched the 5th and 6th innings, giving up one hit ans striking out two.� Franquelis Osoria came in next, and pitched two perfect innings on just 22 pitches.� Jim Brower came in to pitch the 9th.� He gave up a hit to Hooper and a walk to Shelton, followed by an RBI single to Perez, to give the Mud Hens a total of 6 runs.�
Jeff Andrews, Ryan Doumit, and John Van Benschoten conference on the mound -- photo by NancyZ�Pitching coach Jeff Andrews, catcher Ryan Doumit, and pitcher John Van Benschoten have a conference on the mound.� (Photo by NancyZ)

The Indians’ offense was led by 1B Yurendell de Caster, who was responsible for batting in both of the Indians’ runs.� De Caster blasted a home run over the right field fence just to the right of the 405 foot sign to lead off the bottom of the 3rd.� That was the only run given up by Mud Hens’ starter, former Indianapolis Indian Ron Chiavacci.� Chiavacci was clearly pleased to be back in Indianapolis, even if in the “wrong” dugout, and he had good control of his pitches.� Chiavacci also gave up hits to CF Nyjer Morgan, DH Chris Aguila, SS Brian Bixler, and 2B Luis Ordaz, and hit LF Rajai Davis (?on the wrist?), but these were scattered over the 5 innings that he pitched.�
Preston Larrison pitched the 6th inning for the Mud Hens, and he also gave up one run, which de Caster also batted in.�
Ryan Doumit went one for three with a double -- photo by NancyZC Ryan Doumit led off the 6th by lining a double into right field.�� Chris Aguila hit what looked like a routine grounder to shortstop, but Mud Hens’ SS Santiago couldn’t come up with the ball, and Aguila was safe at first on the error.� Luis Matos grounded back to Larrison, who whirled and threw to second for the force out fielder’s choice, and Doumit advanced to third.� Then de Caster grounded out to the shortstop, which allowed Doumit to score.� That was the end of the Indians’ scoring for the night.�
Both Nyjer Morgan and Rajai Davis stole their first bases of the season –also the Indians’ first stolen bases of the season.�
Indians’ hit of the game: �Yurendell de Caster’s long home run in the 3rd inning.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game:� In the top of the 7th inning,� Mike Hessman hit a ground ball back up the middle, and as it was�passing second base, SS Brian Bixler went to his left, deep behind second base, but it didn’t look like he was going to get there in time.� At the same time, 2B Ordaz was going to his right, but closer to the base and in front of Bixler.� Ordaz snatched the ball, and turned and fired hard to first, where 1B Yurendell de Caster stretched to scoop up the throw just in time.
Game time temperature was 44 degrees — not a heat wave, but almost 10 degrees better than Thursday’s game and yesterday’s first game.�
A story related by radio broadcaster Scott McCauley:� Hitting coach Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens is fluent in English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and Papiamento (the native language of Curacao, his home).� Tribe Outfielder Michael Ryan approached Meulens and asked, completely seriously:� when you are thinking to yourself, what language do you think in?� Meulens answer:� If he is talking with the American players and speaking English, then he will be thinking in English.� If he can’t come up with the right word in English, he runs through his mental “dictionary” to look for the right word.� But when he is�alone, he thinks in Papiamento, which is his first language.
Go Tribe!

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Tribe Splits Doubleheader with Columbus

The Indianapolis Indians split the doubleheader with the Columbus Clippers this afternoon, but won the series two games to one. Both games were pitching duels, with the temperatures were barely above freezing — 35 degrees for game one and 37 degrees for game two. There was only an intermittent breeze today, instead of the 25 mph wind that was blowing out to right field on Opening Day.
Pinch hitter Chris Aguila was the hero of game one. The game was scoreless through the regulation (for a double header ) seven innings, and extended into the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, SS Brian Bixler lead off with a single to right field. C Carlos Maldonado dropped a perfect bunt along the first base line to move Bixler to second base. 2B Luis Ordaz hit a fly ball to right field, but it wasn’t deep enough for Bixler to advance to third. Chris Aguila came in to pinch hit for P Dan Kolb. In his first appearance of the 2007 season, Aguila smashed the 1 – 1 pitch into right field, to score Bixler from second for the 1 – 0 win.
The Columbus pitchers held the Indians to only 5 hits. 3B Russ Johnson singled into left field to lead off the bottom of the second inning, but was thrown out at second on a strike-out/throw-out double play. Starting pitcher Bryan Bullington had an infield hit in the bottom of the third, when Clippers’ 2B Marvin Dorta had a little trouble handling the ball, but Bullington was stranded when CF Nyjer Morgan struck out to end the inning. RF Luis Matos hit a solid single to centerfield in the seventh inning, but was thrown out trying to steal second base. Columbus starting pitcher Joel Hanrahan also gave up two walks: one to Carlos Maldonado, who was also stranded at the end of the inning, and one to Russ Johnson, who was also thrown out trying to steal second. Winston Abreu pitched two innings in relief for the Clippers, giving up only the hit to Matos. Columbus reliever Saul Rivera pitched the 8th inning and took the loss.
Indians’ starter Bryan Bullington did not look like a pitcher who hadn’t pitched in a real game since September 2005. His fastballs were in the 86 – 89 mph range (scoreboard radar ), and he threw 73 pitches in 5 innings. He scattered three hits and one walk, while striking out four and not giving up a run. The biggest threat came in the 4th inning. Clippers’ CF George Lombard led off with a double to right field. Bullington then struck out LF Michael Restovich and walked 1B Larry Broadway, to move Lombard to second base. 3B Tony Batista then hit a long fly ball to deep center, but Indians’ CF Nyjer Morgan came to Bullington’s rescue by running straight back to the warning track and pulling in the ball. Bullington then induced C Brandon Harper to ground out to end the threat.
Reliever Josh Sharpless pitched the 6th inning for the Tribe. He gave up two walks, one intentional, but got three other batters to hit routine fly ball outs to get out of the inning. Dan Kolb pitched the 7th and 8th innings, giving up one hit, striking out two, and letting his infielders help him out by taking care of four routine ground balls.
Hitting feat of the game: Obviously, Chris Aguila’s clutch pinch hit single for the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the 8th inning.
Defensive play of the game: Nyjer Morgan’s run to the centerfield warning track to pull in Batista’s long fly ball. If Morgan had not gotten to that ball, two runs would have scored, and that easily could have been enough to win it today.
Continue on for second game….

The Clippers shut out the Indians 2 – 0 in Game 2. Indians’ starter Shane Youman pitched four strong innings, but he still got the loss. In the first inning, Youman got two outs, then walked two straight batters, but then got 1B Larry Broadway to ground out to get out of the situation. In the top of the second, Youman gave up singles to Clippers’ 3B Tony Batista and C Juan Brito, followed by a sacrifice fly to RF Darnell McDonald for the RBI. That was all the Clippers needed, though they did get an insurance run in the 6th inning. Kevin Gryboski gave up a double to Broadway, and subsequent walks to Brito, McDonald (an intentional walk ), and relief pitcher Billy Traber to walk in a run. Gyrboski also walked two in the 7th inning. With two outs and CF George Lombard on second and Broadway on first, Batista smashed a drive just inside the third base line. Indians’ 3B Mike Edwards stabbed it backhanded and scrambled to step on third base ahead of Lombard for the third out. Jesse Chavez pitched the 5th inning for the Tribe, striking out the top of the Clippers’ order: 2B Melvin Dorta, SS Alex Gonzalez, and Lombard.
The Indians managed only 5 hits in the second game also, and again they were all singles. CF Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a single to left, but was erased when MIke Edwards ground into a double play. Morgan would have had an infield hit to lead off the fourth, but he was called out for interference when the umpires agreed that Morgan had put his elbow up and out to block 1B Broadway from seeing or getting to the throw from the pitcher. Not only would Morgan have been safe, but the throw was not on target, and Morgan would have been on second base.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, RF Michael Ryan and 1B Yurendell de Caster each hit singles, and pinch hitter Russ Johnson walked, to send Clippers’ starter Felix Diaz to the showers (and the warm clubhouse, no doubt ). Reliever Billy Traber entered the game, and induced Nyjer Morgan to ground into a fielder’s choice to get out of the inning without a run scoring. Tribe C Ryan Doumit, just back from Pittsburgh, had a single to center field in the 4th inning, but was stranded on base. SS Brian Bixler also had a hit in the 7th inning, but was similarly stranded. Traber got the win, and Chris Booker, who pitched the 7th inning for Columbus took the save.
Indians’ offensive feat of the game: Well, nothing was really fantastic, but Yurendell de Caster’s hit was the only one that came with someone else on base. He moved Ryan to third base, which was the only time the Indians got that far.
Indians’ defensive play of the game: Mike Edwards’ backhand grab of that liner in the top of the 7th. If that had gone through, at least one and maybe two more runs would have scored, and the inning would have continued.
The Pirates did recall infielder Freddy Sanchez from his rehab stint, probably thinking that he could be just as cold in Cincinnati, but at least would be able to get into games. Ryan Doumit, mentioned above, was sent to Indianapolis to make room on the Pirates’ roster. Doumit got here quickly and was ready to go. He’d had three pinch-hit at-bats with the Pirates and had yet to get a hit. Doumit didn’t play in the first game, but caught the second game. To make room on the Indians’ roster, Einar Diaz was placed on the Disabled List. The Pirates have indicated that they want Doumit to catch on a regular basis, which suggests that Carlos Maldonado will be the back-up catcher.
The Indians have not had a successful stolen base in their three games so far. Base stealing can’t be an easy thing to do in this cold.
There were a few little snow flakes in the air in the last inning of the first game. Still, it just didn’t seem right for the stadium to be playing “Let It Snow” during the break between games.
The “official” attendance was given as 2997, though the vast majority of them were disguised as empty seats. There were at most 300 bodies, and that probably was counting the players and the people working in the concession stands. It’s supposed to get warmer over the next few days.
Bryan Bullington and Chris Aguila in Game 1, and Ryan Doumit and Jesse Chavez in Game 2. (photos by NancyZ )
Go Tribe!
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
Chris Aguila  --  photo by NancyZ
Ryan Doumit  -- Photo by NancyZ
Jesse Chavez  -- photo by NancyZ

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