IMG_3701Photo: Desmond Jennings steals second base, despite Argenis Diaz’s best efforts.

Burres had no trouble with the Bulls in the 2nd inning, but trouble found him in the 3rd. After a strikeout, he hit Desmond Jennings on the foot with a pitch, then Matt Joyce lined a single into right field. Justin Ruggiano grounded to third, and Steve Pearce got his first chance to field a ball at the new position. Pearce charged in, fielded cleanly, and threw on-target to second base, to force out Joyce. Unfortunately, Joyce’s slide (clean) disrupted Jim Negrych so that he could not make the throw on to first base for the double play. That gave the Bulls runners on the corners with two outs. 1B Dan Johnson gave Durham a 4-1 lead with a 3-run home run over the right field wall, and not even near the yellow campers.

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(Photo: Steve Pearce — still wearing the foul line — and Jim Negrych)

The Indians came right back at the Bulls. Jim Negrych started off the bottom of the 3rd by working a walk, and Steve Pearce lined a single into left field, moving Negrych to second. 1B Jeff Clement doubled into the right field corner, bringing in Negrych from second base and putting Pearce on third. Brian Myrow lifted a fly ball into right field, but too short for Pearce to tag up. Erik Kratz hit another very long fly ball, this time to left field, but again it fell just short of the wall. It was deep enough to bring in Pearce from third, though, and the Indians had moved within one run of the Bulls, 4-3.

They kept at it in the 4th, as each of the first three batters singled off the newest member of the Bulls’ pen, Darin Down, making his AAA debut. Argenis Diaz opened the inning with a grounder up the middle. Kevin Melillo took one through the right side of the infield and into right field, and a wild pitch moved both runners up a base. Brandon Moss’ liner into right field scored Diaz from third with the tying run. Moments later, Steve Pearce’s fly ball into the right field corner allowed Melillo to tag up and bring the go-ahead run across the plate.

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(Photo: the outfield — left to right, Brian Melillo, Brandon Moss, and Jonathan Van Every)

The Indians threatened again in the 6th inning, with Joe Bateman on the mound for Durham. After one out, Brandon Moss walked, Jim Negrych singled into center field, and Steve Pearce took a 4-pitch walk to load the bases. Jeff Clement rocketed a line drive toward the right-center alley — but Bulls’ 2B Joe Dillon reached up and caught the ball, then quickly flipped the ball to second base, where Negrych was easily doubled off to end the inning.

Brian Burres finished up his afternoon’s work with 1-2-3 innings in the 4th and 5th, then a pop out and a strikeout to begin the 6th. Joe Dillon drove a sharp grounder up the third base line, making Steve Pearce really test his third base skills — Pearce made a dive to his right behind the third base bag, sliding across the foul line (see photo at the top), then scrambling to his feet to make the even-longer-than-usual throw from behind third base across to first base. But Dillon was speedy enough to beat the throw from Pearce. That was 89 pitches (63 strikes) for Burres, and that was enough.

IMG_3709Jeremy Powell (photo) came on to relieve Burres with one on and two out. Powell gave up a single to each of the first two batters he faced, Joe Dillon and SS Angel Chavez. Chavez’s hit was softly hit in the infield towards third base. Steve Pearce charged in and made the barehand pick up, then threw to first, but to the infield side of the bag, pulling Jeff Clement off the bag. Clement tried to tag Chavez as he ran past, but missed the tag. But Powell got SS Omar Luna to ground to short, where Argenis Diaz flipped to second base for the inning-ending force out.

The bullpen had issues in the 7th. Brian Bass began the inning with a ground out, then loaded the bases with a double by Desmond Jennings and walks to Matt Joyce and Justin Ruggiano. Bass sat down, and Wil Ledezma (photo below) was next in from the bullpen. Ledezma worked the count full against Dan Johnson, then lost him, with a walk that forced in Jennings with the tying run. Then Ledezma gave up a line drive single into left field by Joe Dillon, and both Joyce and Ruggiano raced around to score. Angel Chavez bounced into a double play to end the inning, but the Bulls had retaken the lead, 7-5.

IMG_3716Anthony Claggett retired the Bulls in order in the 8th. Jean Machi pitched the top of the 9th. With one out, Matt Joyce reached base on a fielding error by 2B Jim Negrych — the ball popped out of his glove and over his shoulder. But Machi struck out Justin Ruggiano and Erik Kratz turned it into a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play when he fired down to second base to catch Joyce stealing.

The Indians got one run closer in the bottom of the 8th. Argenis Diaz reached base on a throwing error by Bulls’ SS Omar Luna. Kevin Melillo’s third hit of the game, a double into the right field corner, allowed Diaz to round third and keep going, as manager Frank Kremblas waived him on. Diaz slid into the plate well ahead of the throw in from right field, and the Indians were down only one run, 7-6. Brandon Moss kept the inning going with a walk. Jim Negrych tried to put down a sacrifice bunt, but the Bulls’ pitcher Dale Thayer was too quick — he lept off the mound and pounced on the ball, then fired to third base, to force out the lead runner Melillo, instead of going to first. The Indians would get no further, as Steve Pearce bounced into an inning-ending double play.

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IMG_3703One last chance in the bottom of the 9th — Jeff Clement led off with a pop out. Brian Myrow was hit by a pitch on his right leg or foot, and Doug Bernier came on to pinch-run for Myrow. Erik Kratz struck out, but Jonathan Van Every worked the count full and then took a walk. Argenis Diaz, who rarely walks (12 walks in 51 games in 2010, and 29 walks in 119 games in 2009), was incredibly patient. While he was at the plate, Bernier stole third base, and a couple of pitches later, Van Every stole second base, both without drawing a throw. Diaz walked, loading the bases for Kevin Melillo. Melillo got to a 2-2 count, with two more pitches fouled off, but then struck out looking to end the game.

Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: A solo home run by Brandon Moss (photo) in the 1st inning, making some happy campers in the grass berm.

Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: The inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to end the 7th inning. Angel Chavez came to the plate with 3 runs in, runners on first and second bases, and one out. He bounced to Argenis Diaz, who threw to Jim Negrych, and on to Jeff Clement.

Photos: Left — Argenis Diaz and Jeff Clement; Right — Pearce is ready to go at third

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NOTES:

Infielder Aki Iwamura has cleared waivers and has been assigned to the Indians. He is expected to arrive in Indianpolis by Friday, and will play both second and third base.

IMG_3693Former Indian Jimmy Barthmaier has been released by the Pirates. Barthmaier started the 2009 season with the Indians, and lasted just two batters into his Opening Day start, before he had problems with his arm. Now, after surgery and a rehab period, he has pitched in 5 games in relief for the Altoona Curve, but has had trouble. In a total of 3 innings, he has allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits with 5 walks and 3 strikeouts, for a 12.00 ERA. Batters have lit him up, to the tune of a .462 average against him.

Radio broadcaster Scott McCauley provided some stats for Steve Pearce (photo): In his professional career, he has made 487 starts at first base, 135 starts in the outfield (one in left, the rest in right). He has been the designated hitter too. He even played shortstop in high school. But no starts at third base. Pearce more than held his own at the new spot. He made two routine plays at third look routine, and made two diving stops, keeping balls from going into the outfield, though the runners beat the throw to first.

Go Tribe!

(photos by Nancy)

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