The Indianapolis Indians had two choices Monday night at Victory Field. They could lose the final installment of their four-game set with the division-leading Columbus Clippers–which would have given the Tribe a 2-2 split for the series–and continue to meddle in mediocrity. Or they could tell the visiting Clippers-“don’t turn around because we’re coming, and we’re coming hard.” With some clutch hitting late in the game, the Indy Indians chose the later of the two, and Indianapolis sports fans everywhere have something to get excited about.
The Clippers had their ace Josh Tomlin on the hill, and after former Indian infielder, now Columbus Clipper, Brian Bixler hit a two-run home run in the top of the third inning, it appeared the series would be a wash. The right-hander Tomlin (4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4 SO) pitched himself out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth when he loaded the bases and allowed the Indians to score their first run on a wild pitch that plated third basemen Pedro Alvarez with no outs.
But with the sacks packed again after first basemen Brian Myrow walked, Tomlin got Tribe second basemen Brian Friday and shortstop Doug Bernier to strike out before left fielder Jose Tabata was robbed of a base hit by Columbus third basemen Jared Goedert.
It was more of the same for Columbus in the bottom of the fifth inning when the hometown Hoosiers loaded the bases with two outs. But this time the Clippers skipper Mike Sarbaugh had seen enough and pulled Tomlin for shaky reliever Josh Judy. Judy lived up to the billing of giving up big hits by serving up a base-clearing double to Indianapolis designated hitter Brian Moss who just missed a grand slam down the left field line by a few feet.
The Tribe looked to extend the inning when Brian Friday shot a single to right field, but Moss was thrown out at the plate on a more than questionable call at the plate. The phantom tag not withstanding, the damage was done. Indians had jumped out to a 4-2 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
The Clippers made it interesting in the sixth by adding a run and chasing Indians starter Brian Burres, (5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3, ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) who was making his first start for the Tribe. Right-handed reliever Vinnie Chulk closed out the frame without any further damage as he continues to pitch lights out as of late. Chulk is only one of the bright spots for the Indians bullpen as he has posted a 0.55 ERA over his last during his last 13 appearances.
The one-run lead for the Circle City crew did not last long as they added one more run in the bottom of the sixth when Tabata hit a one out single and advandced to second on a throwing error from Clippers third basemen Goedert. Tabata then scored on a soft single to left field off the bat of Indianapolis right fielder Kevin Melillo.
Left-handed reliever Justin Thomas continued the Tribes strong showing out the pen when he came in to spell Chulk who got into a bases-loaded jam with one out in the top of the seventh. Thomas induced a double play ground ball to third which Pedro Alvarez scooped up, stepped on third and fired a strike across the diamond for the final out in the frame.
The action in downtown Indianapolis died down and closer Jean Machi (1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO) came in for the ninth and closed out the game by inducing a pop-out from Bixler. Monday’s save was his eight of the season and preserved the victory for Burres in his 2010 Triple-A debut.
The Indians welcome the Pawtucket Red Sox for a four-game tilt at Victory Field that kicks off on Tuesday and runs through Friday before the Tribe hits the road. Right-handed starter Charlie Morton will make his Triple-A season debut while right-hander Adam Mills is the scheduled starter for the Paw Sox.
The game can be heard on Indianapolis radio station WXLW-950 AM , or watched live on Comcast and Bright House Networks digital channel 81 with Howard Kellman and Scott McCauley giving you the play-by-play. The pre-game show on WXLW-950 AM begins at 6:40 p.m
EXTRA GAME NOTES
- With the win, the Indianapolis Indians move to 31-27 on the season and Columbus slips to 36-23. Thanks to the Tribe taking three out of four games from the Clippers they have cut Columbus’ International League West Division lead to 4.5 games and now sit just one game behind the Louisville Bats for second division.
- The Tribe will send right-handed Charlie Morton to the bump for his first Triple-A start of the 2010 season. Morton has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates so far this season prior to his rehab stint here in Indy.
- For those looking towards the future, the Pittsburgh Pirates had the second overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft on Monday night. With pick number two the Bucos took right-handed high school pitcher Jameson Taillon from Texas. Baseball America rated him the best pitching prospect in this year’s draft. If Taillon lives up to the hype and can stay healthy, he might be headlining for the Indians in two years.