Justin Wilson (photo) put the first two Braves’ batters on base in each of the first three innings. The top of the 1st began with an infield single by CF Jose Constanza, who beat out the throw from Marte on a slow grounder to first base. Constanza stole second base, then SS Julio Lugo also grounded to Marte at third. This time, Marte’s throw to 1B Hague pulled Hague off the bag, and Lugo was safe on the throwing error. Gartrell made it three straight grounders to Marte, but the third time was the charm for Marte, who fired to second base, where 2B Brian Friday got the force out on Gartrell, and fired on to first for the double play. A strikeout by Braves’ 1B Mauro Gomez ended the inning, and Wilson had escaped without a run scoring.
Wilson began the 2nd inning with a walk to 3B Dan Nelson, then gave up a double off the top of the right field wall to LF Wilkin Ramirez. With two runners in scoring position, Wilson proceeded to strike out the next three batters — 2B Ed Lucas, C Wilkin Castillo, and pitcher Cordier — and again got out of the jam. But you had to know that Wilson’s luck could not hold on forever. In the 3rd, he gave up a lead-off bunt single to Constanza when Marte missed the barehanded pick-up of the bunt, followed by a line drive single into right field by Lugo. Gartrell lined the third consecutive hit into right field, scoring Constanza. The throw in from RF Andrew Lambo to the cut-off man Marte was too late to catch Lugo going into third base. But Marte alertly fired over to second base in time for Friday to tag out Gartrell, who was trying to advance to second base on the throw. A sacrifice fly by Gomez brought in Lugo with the tying run, before an easy line out to short ended the inning.
(Photo: Kris Watts made his first AAA start)
The 4th inning was the only one in which Wilson retired the side in order. In the 5th, he again put two runners on base. The inning began with an amazing diving stop by 1B Hague on a grounder to the left of first base. Wilson then gave up another pair of singles, to Constanza and Lugo. Constanza hit his third infield hit of the game, when Friday bobbled the ball at second base just long enough to let the speedy Constanza beat out the throw to first. Lugo bunted down the third base line, where Marte again missed the barehanded pick up. But Wilson was back on track, and he struck out Gartrell and got Gomez to fly out to end the inning. Wilson gave up only one hit in the 6th, a double down the right field line by Lucas, who found himself stranded on second base when the inning ended. Wilson finished with a season-high 106 pitches (68 strikes), and 2 runs on 8 hits and a walk, plus 5 strikeouts in 6 innings.
Brian Friday broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 5th. With Cordier still on the mound for Gwinnett and one out, Friday slipped a grounder through the hole and into left field for a single. After a fly out that did not allow for tagging up, Friday moved up to second base on a wild pitch. Bowker smacked a grounder into right field, and Friday raced around to score the go-ahead run from second base, as the throw in from right field sailed over C Castillo’s head. Bowker advanced to second base on the throw, but he was left there when a fly out ended the inning. Indians with a 3-2 lead.
Marte opened the 6th inning with his third hit of the game, a liner into left field. Not wanting to strain Marte’s just-healthy-again hamstring, manager Dean Treanor put Gorkys Hernandez in to pinch-run for Marte. Lambo dropped down a bunt that got past the mound on the right side of the infield. 1B Gomez came in to make the scoop, but Cordier did not get over to first base fast enough, and Lambo was safe on the infield hit. Watts was hit on the foot by a pitch and had to argue about it, since the home plate umpire didn’t think Watts had been hit. When all of the umpires conferred, Watts was awarded first base, and the bases were full of Indians’ runners. Miles Durham came on to pinch-hit for Justin Wilson, and he slammed a long fly ball to deep center field. It was long enough for Hernandez to tag up and score from third base with an insurance run. Indians up, 4-2.
The Braves got one of the runs back in the top of the 7th. Chris Leroux came on to take over for Wilson, while Durham remained in the game in right field and Hernandez stayed on in center field. Presley (photo) shifted over to left field, Bowker moved to first, Hague moved to third base, and Lambo was the one who came out of the game. Leroux began the inning with three straight singles. Pinch hitter Jeff Florentino lined one into center field, Constanza grounded up the middle just under d’Arnaud’s glove (his 4th hit of the game, and the only one that left the infield), and Lugo blooped an RBI single over Friday’s head into short center field, allowing Florentino to score from second base. That cut the Tribe’s lead to one run, 4-3. Then Leroux settled down and retired the next three batters in order, on two fly outs and a line out that d’Arnaud caught with a perfectly-timed leap.
Leroux went on to retire the Braves in order in the top of the 8th, with one strike out, and three Tribe batters went down in order in the bottom of the frame. Cesar Valdez, now the Indians’ closer since Tim Wood joined the Pirates, took the mound for the top of the 9th, and ended the game with a ground out and strike outs by Constanza and Lugo — the only time in the game those two did not reach base. They accounted for 7 of the Braves’ 11 hits.
Wilson earned his 8th win of the season, and Valdez picked up his 4th Save. The Indians remain in 3rd place in the International League Western Division, 9.5 games behind first-place Columbus, and 4 games behind second-place Louisville. Toledo is in 4th place, 5 games behind the Tribe.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: #1 –Kris Watts’ triple (photo), for his first hit at the AAA level. Manager Dean Treanor called for the baseball and tossed it into the dugout to save for Watts. #2 — Three hits, a double and two singles, by Andy Marte on the day he got back into action after a hamstring injury. His third hit, a single in the 6th, was the one that eventually became the winning run, with the help of pinch-hitter Gorkys Hernandez.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: #1 — In the 6th, Wilkin Ramirez lifted a soft liner into short center field. It looked like it was going to fall in for a hit, but Brian Friday didn’t believe that. He ran back and to his right, and made a diving catch for the out. It saved a run, since Ramirez might have scored when Lucas followed with a double. #2– With one run in and two runners in scoring position in the 7th, Mauro Gomez lined toward center field, which should have brought in two runs. Chase d’Arnaud made a huge leap and came down with the ball in his glove for the second out of the inning, saving two runs.
The Pirates might have picked up some more catching help: Mike McKenry from the Red Sox. This was reported as a trade, but not confirmed yet (and not as of 11 pm) and no word as to which Pirates’ player is going to the Red Sox in return.
UPDATE: It’s McKenry for a player-to-be-named-later and/or $$. He will join the Pirates, and Wyatt Toregas will be removed from the 40-man roster and Designated For Assignment. If Toregas clears waivers, he will likely return to the Indians.
Josh Harrison, who has been up with the Pirates playing mostly third base for a few weeks now, was on the bench today with a “tight” right oblique muscle. He felt it pull when he was running the bases on Saturday.
Braves’ Shawn Bowman, who left yesterday’s game while running the bases, was diagnosed with an oblique muscle strain.
(photos by Nancy)