Indianapolis Indians 8, Columbus Clippers 1[ box ]
The Indianapolis Indians recorded 14 hits on their way to 8 runs at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio tonight, overwhelming the Clippers in the first game of this 2-game series. Four Tribe pitchers, Tony Watson, Aaron Thompson, Chris Leroux, and Justin Thomas, all combined to hold the Clippers to just one run, though they also surrendered 11 hits. RF Jose Tabata led the Indians’ offense with 3 hits, including 2 doubles, while 1B Matt Hague and 3B Josh Harrison both homered for the Tribe.
For the second game in a row, Jose Tabata opened the contest with a double into right field. SS Pedro Ciriaco’s sacrifice bunt moved Tabata to third, and he scored from there on LF John Bowker’s infield hit. Clippers’ 2B Cord Phelps was able to get to the ball, but then he could not get it out of his glove in time to make a play. Matt Hague walked, but both he and Bowker were left on base.
The 2nd inning also began with a double — this one down the left field line by 2B Jordy Mercer. C Eric Fryer advanced Mercer to third with a long fly out. Mercer crossed the plate on CF Gorkys Hernandez’s line drive back up the middle. Tabata and Hernandez pulled off a hit-and-run play — as Hernandez broke for second base, forcing 2B Phelps to also move toward the bag to make a play, Tabata shot a grounder right though the spot that Phelps had just left. Hernandez kept running, and the Indians had runners on the corners with one out. Ciriaco grounded into a force out on Tabata at second base, but that let Hernandez score the second run of the inning, and the Indians had a 3-0 lead.
Tony Watson made the “start” for the Indians — his first start of the season. Watson has just rejoined the Indians after having spent some time with the Pirates. He was scheduled to pitch just one inning, and the plan was to have it be an inning he would begin, so manager Dean Treanor made the decision to have that one inning be the first of the game. Watson faced four batters in the bottom of the 1st, allowing only a 2-out single into center field by SS Luis Valbuena.
After Watson’s inning, Aaron Thompson took over the mound. Thompson joined the Indians today, promoted from the Altoona Curve, where he had split time between the staring rotation and the bullpen. Thompson pitched 3.2 innings and scattered 5 hits. He erased a single by RF Chad Huffman with a double play in the 2nd, and left CF Thomas Neal stranded on second base after he doubled in the 3rd.
The Clippers got onto the scoreboard in the 4th. With one out, LF Jerad Head lined a single into left field. DH Travis Buck grounded back up the middle, with the ball first ricocheting off Thompson’s foot, then bouncing right to 2B Mercer. Mercer made the pickup close to the baseline, where he attempted a swipe tag on Head, who was dashing past. The swipe missed, but Mercer still had time to throw to first base for the out on Buck. With Head safe on second base, Huffman doubled to the wall over Tabata’s head in right field, driving in Head, to cut the Tribe’s lead to 3-1.
Thompson also began the 5th inning by surrendering a double to 1B Beau Mills (son of former Indy Indian Brad Mills, who played for the Tribe in 1984). Mills made a mental error when he remained at second base on a ground out to the right side of the infield. That hurt the Clippers, because the next batter, Neal, flied out to center field. Instead of being on third and being able to score on that long fly, Mills was only able to tag up and move over to third base. Rehabbing reliever Chris Leroux came in for Thompson, and Leroux ended the inning with a fly out, leaving Mills standing on third, having given the Indians a little gift.
3B Josh Harrison gave the Indians a bit of insurance in the top of the 6th, when he blasted a fly ball over the 400-foot sign in straight-away center field for a solo homer. After a lead-off walk to Tabata in the 7th, and a sacrifice bunt by Ciriaco to move Tabata to second base, Hague gave the Indians two more with a 2-run homer over the left field wall. Indians 6, Clippers 1.
Leroux went on to pitch 2 more innings, working into and out of a jam in each. In the 6th, the Clippers loaded the bases on a throwing error by 3B Harrison (his throw pulled 1B Hague off the base) to put on Head, a single by Huffman, and a walk to 3B Jared Goedert. With two outs, Leroux struck out Mills to end the inning and leave the bases full. A double by Phelps and a walk to Valbuena put two runners on in the 7th, but again Leroux came through and ended the inning with a fly out.
The Tribe continued to add to their run total in the final two innings. With two outs in the 8th, Hernandez singled through the hole and into left field. Tabata bounced his third hit of the night all the way to the right field wall for an RBI double, as Hernandez came across the plate. Bowker led off the 9th with a double off the right field wall, barely missing a home run. DH Jeff Clement smacked a grounder right to Clippers’ 1B Mills, which hit Mills’ glove and caromed down the line and into the bullpen. Bowker came around from second to score by the time the Clippers could chase down the ball. Clement reached as far as third base when Mercer doubled. A walk to Fryer loaded the bases with two outs, but a ground out ended the inning with all three Tribe runners still on base.
Justin Thomas pitched the final two innings for the Tribe. He gave up Chad Huffman’s 4th hit of the game, a double off the right field wall, in the 8th, but left Huffman stranded. He also gave up two singles, to C Paul Phillips and Valbuena in the 9th, but left those runners on the corners with a game-ending ground out.
The two teams will face-off again tomorrow at noon, then the Indians will travel to Louisville for four games against the Bats. The Bats lost to the Toledo Mud Hens tonight, which moves the Indians into second place in the International League Western Division, 12.5 games behind the first-place Clippers, and one game ahead of the Bats. The Indians are also still in the Wild Card race. Pawtucket and Lehigh Valley are tied for the lead in that race, with the Indians in 5th place, 5 games behind.
Indians’ Hitting Gem of the Game: Homers by Josh Harrison and Matt Hague. Harrison’s, in the 6th, was his 5th of the season for the Indians. Hague’s was his 11th of the season, coming in the 7th.
Indians’ Defensive Gems of the Game: The ball carries well in Huntington Park, and the Indians’ outfielders were kept busy racing back to the wall to catch long fly balls. In the 2nd, Gorkys Hernandez made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Jared Goedert of a hit, then fired the ball back to the infield, where he doubled Chad Huffman off first base. John Bowker also made a leaping catch over the yellow line to rob Luis Valbuena of a home run in the 6th.
Tribe pitcher Rudy Owens was placed on the Disabled List today, complaining of tightness and fatigue in his shoulder.
Aaron Thompson was promoted from Altoona. He made 12 starts and 16 relief appearances for the Curve, earning a 4-7 record and a 5.16 ERA. In 83.2 innings, Thompson gave up 100 hits and 55 runs (48 earned), with 20 walks and 51 strikeouts. Thompson was in the Curve starting rotation in the beginning of the season, then moved to the bullpen.
(photos by Nancy)