Charlotte Knights 2, Indianapolis Indians 1
The newest Indianapolis Indian made his debut this afternoon at Victory Field, hurling 6 scoreless innings and striking out 6 batters. Kyle McPherson, just promoted from AA Altoona, allowed 3 hits and was responsible for the first of the Charlotte Knights’ runs. He did not figure into the decision, though, as the game was tied at 1-1 when he finished his afternoon’s work.
McPherson, who had battled injury at the beginning of the season, made 9 starts for the Altoona Curve and earned a 3-5 record with a 4.07 ERA. In 48 innings, he had allowed 54 hits, but just 22 earned runs, with 5 walks (yes, just 5) and 46 strikeouts. He was the Pirates’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2011, and was initially expected to start this season in Indianapolis, but shoulder injury and infection disrupted that plan. Now, after some time in Altoona, McPherson has joined the Indians.
He began his debut by putting down the first 7 Knights’ batters that he faced. Charlotte’s SS Tyler Saladino had the first hit off McPherson, with one out in the 3rd, but McPherson easily worked around it to end the inning. RF Conor Jackson slipped a one-out single into left field in the 4th inning. McPherson’s wild pitch moved Jackson to second base, but he was doubled off second when former Indy Indian 1B Hector Gimenez lined sharply Tribe 2B Brock Holt. Holt alertly fired to second base, catching Jackson by surprise. McPherson retired the next 6 batters in order as well, so that after 6 innings, he had faced only one batter over the minimum.
McPherson came back out to begin the top of the 7th, after the Indians had scored one run in the bottom of the 6th. The first batter of the frame, 2B Tyler Kuhn, dropped down a bunt near the mound on the third base side. McPherson scrambled to field it, then fired to first base, but Kuhn was too fast, and he beat the throw. That brought manager Dean Treanor out of the dugout, and McPherson’s debut was over. He had thrown 75 pitches (54 strikes). McPherson was clearly excited to be with the Indians, even bouncing up and down on his toes after his warm-up pitches.
“I was definitely very excited, especially after coming up from Altoona and making some starts there in preparation to get here finally,” McPherson said. “It was a relief to finally get up here and do well enough to give the team a chance.”
It helped that McPherson was throwing to C Tony Sanchez, who has been his teammate before.
“I’ve worked with Tony for a couple of years, and he knows me and I know him,” said McPherson after the game. “There’s never really a game out there where we struggle to stay on the same page, and today was no different. We definitely fed off each other and stuck with the same game plan……I was really trying to command the fastball on both sides of the plate, and mix the changeup in when I needed to, and get the breaking ball over to put away some guys. It worked out well.”
The run that was charged to McPherson came in that 7th inning. With Kuhn on first base, Daniel McCutchen came on in relief. McCutchen gave up a double to Jackson that sailed over the head of CF Jose Tabata and off the top of the left-center field wall. Kuhn raced around to score from first base, tying the game at 1-1. Two strikeouts and a grounder to third got McCutchen out of the inning without allowing Jackson to score from second base.
The Indians had been putting more base runners on base in the early innings than McPherson was allowing, but they were not scoring. The bottom of the 1st began with a bloopy little infield single by SS Chase d’Arnaud, which landed in the no-mans’-land behind the mound and in front of second base. The speedy d’Arnaud reached first base before 2B Kuhn could get to the ball and make the throw to first. D’Arnaud was forced out at second when Gimenez fielded 2B Brock Holt’s grounder and tried for a double play. He made the out at second, but the throw back to Gimenez at first was wide, and Holt was safe. Moments later, Holt was picked off first base and tagged out as he headed for second base. Tabata doubled to the center field wall, but was left stranded there. DH Jeff Clement walked in both the 2nd and 4th innings, but did not come around to score. Sanchez walked and RF Brandon Boggs singled in the 3rd, but a double play halted that attempt at a rally.
In the bottom of the 6th, Holt started a rally with a one-out double off the top edge of the right field wall. He advanced to third base on Tabata’s ground out, then scored when 1B Matt Hague singled. Clement also singled, moving Hague to second, but the inning ended before they could go any further. The Indians had a 1-0 lead, if only briefly. The Knights tied the score in the next inning.
The Indians could not get anything going after the 6th inning. Former Indy Indian Donnie Veal pitched two scoreless innings for the Knights. He allowed the only hit the Indians would collect over the last three innings — a single by Holt in the 8th. Holt was forced out at second base on a grounder by Hague.
McCutchen was replaced by Doug Slaten to begin the top of the 8th. Slaten came in with the score tied at 1-1. He began by hitting CF Jared Mitchell with a pitch. A sacrifice bunt by Saladino moved Mitchell to second base. LF Jim Gallagher walked, then DH Greg Golson grounded deep into the hole at short. D’Arnaud made a diving stop, then tried to throw to second base from a sitting position for the force — but he was not successful. That loaded the bases with Knights. A double play would have gotten Slaten and the Tribe out of the jam, and it looked hopeful when Kuhn grounded to second. Holt made the scoop and the throw to d’Arnaud, and they got the force out on Golson at second. But Golson’s slide tangled up with d’Arnaud’s legs. D’Arnaud could not make the throw to first to complete the double play, and so Mitchell scored from third base. Knights ahead, 2-1.
Tim Wood came on to relieve Slaten, and he ended the 8th inning with a strikeout. Wood also pitched the top of the 9th. He gave up a two -out single to C Josh Phegley , who then stole second base, but a fly out ended the inning.
McPherson was not involved in the decision, since the score was tied when he left. McCutchen was charged with a Blown Save, and Slaten was charged with the loss, his 2nd of the season. Brock Holt was the only Indians’ batter to have 2 hits in the game. He and Tabata each had a double in the game. LF Drew Sutton made his first start for the Indians — he was o-for-4 at the plate.
The Knights and the Indians finish this 4-game series on Thursday — as the Indians hope to avoid the sweep. After that, the Indians leave on their longest road trip of the season, which will feature series against Columbus, Rochester, and Syracuse.
Indians’ Hitting Gems of the Game: The double by Brock Holt and the single by Matt Hague in the 6th inning combined to give the Indians their only run of the game.
Indians’ Defensive Gem of the Game: In the top of the 7th, with one run in and a runner on second base, Daniel McCutchen struck out two batters. Then Josh Phegley rocketed a grounder to third base. Anderson Hernandez had to go to his right to make a back-handed stop that took him into foul territory a few feet behind second base. Hernandez made the long throw across the diamond to Matt Hague, on target and in time for the out on Phegley.
As noted, Jeff Locke has been promoted to Pittsburgh. To make room on the roster, LF Alex Presley has been again optioned back to Indianapolis.
It seems what the big club needs most is a SS who can bat leadoff. Brock Holt hits for a high average, but does he have a good enough OBP to be a leadoff man? Does he have speed? Will he be a good defensive SS?