The Wheels Come Off in Indians Opener

Since 1582, March 21 has been the first day of spring according to the internationally used Gregorian calendar. But let’s be honest, spring doesn’t start until baseball comes back. So, last night at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis when Indians pitcher Jeremy Powell toed the rubber, he did more than throw a 94-mph fastball on the inside corner for strike one, he ushered in the true start of spring.

Things were looking good  for the Circle City crew through seven innings, as they held a slim 4-3 lead in the first game of a four game series against the Toledo Mud Hens. Then came the eight inning and mayhem ensued.

The Toledo Mud Hens posted four runs in the eighth thanks to some timely hits and two untimely errors from the home team. Sloppy play was not limited to the eight for the Indians. As evident by the fact that by game’s end, Indy had as many errors as runs…this is never a good thing.

The final score of 7-4 marks the Indianapolis squads fifth loss in their last six games, and pulls the tribe’s overall record to 3-6.

Neither of the starting pitchers, Indians Jeff Powell (4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO)or the Mud Hens Enrique Gonzalez (4.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO), figured in last night’s decision.

Indians pitcher Jeff Karstens took the loss and the brunt of the of the punishment, finishing the night with a line of 3.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO. Karstens’ record moves to 1-1 on the season.

The win went to Toledo’s Scott Drucker (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO) who came in to relieve Gonzalez in the fifth inning. Casey Fien (1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 SO) picked up the save for the visiting Mud Hens.

However, the Indianapolis Indians did provide fireworks for the crowd of 11,609 on hand last night, both during and after the game. Indians third-basemen, and resident slugger, Pedro Alvarez lived up to the big league hype by crushing a Gonzalez offering in the fourth inning down the right field line that was gone as soon as he made contact. Alvarez also had a single in the second inning and scored the game’s first run. Alvarez finished the night by going 2-3 and improving his batting average to .257. It wasn’t all peaches and creme for the highly touted slugger. Alvarez committed two errors at the hot corner, including a not so impressive olé swipe at the ball in the third inning that hopped on by. It’s defensive plays like this that might keep Alvarez’ big bat in Indiana longer than the poor hitting Pirates might want.

Also supplying the home crowd with a blast into the night was right fielder Brandon Jones. Jones went deep in the bottom of the seventh to stake the tribe to a flimsy 4-3 lead. Jones finished his night going 3-5 with 2 RBI and a strikeout. He is now batting .320 for the season.

Video of the fireworks show after last night’s Indianapolis Indians 2010 home opener at Victory Field.

Another batting bright spot for our Indianapolis sports baseball franchise was leadoff man and center fielder Jose Tabata. Tabata extended his early season hitting streak to a career long eight games. He has now hit safely in all eight games that he has played this season, and is hitting at a .351 clip to lead all Indians in batting average.

In contrast to the four defensive errors committed last night by the Indians was the outstanding play by shortstop Argenis Diaz. While the 23-year old Venezuelan doesn’t carry that big of a stick,(.207BA) his leather is of a  golden-glove caliber and should be enough to make Diaz a defensive mainstay in the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Other Game Notes

Going into last night’s game, the Indians were 10-3 in home openers at Victory Field, including 3-2 since becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates triple-A affiliate. Last night’s loss pushes that record to 10-4 overall at Victory Field and 3-3 as part of the Pirate’s farm system.

Last night’s crowd of 11,609 was the second largest in Victory Field history. If comes in behind only the 2008 home opener which drew a gate of 12,073 fans.

The Indians installed a dazzling new LED video board along the left field fence in the offseason that just adds to the already impressive look of the best ballpark in the minor leagues. The new $650,000 video board is 6-1/2 feet tall and 120 feet in length…and it is more impressive in person than any description could suggest.

Video of beautiful Victory Field and its new 120 foot LED scoreboard in left field. The Indianapolis skyline provides a perfect backdrop.

After the game, the Indians treated the faithful fans who stuck around to an amazing 10 minute fireworks show which light up the downtown Indianapolis skyline.

Even with the tough loss in the season home opener, the Indians and Mud Hens will do it all again tonight starting at 7 p.m. and is easily one of the best things to do in Indianapolis tonight. Every Indians game is a major Indianapolis event, so make sure you are part of the action. If you’ve never been to Victory Field, than you wouldn’t know that it is just one of the major Indianapolis attractions down by the White River State Park. Since it’s the weekend, grab the family and get downtown for a full day of fun in the sun.

Baseball is back my friends, so bust out the beach blankets, call up your friends and get down to Victory Field…its going to be a great summer.

For a complete list of upcoming Indians games and events, visit the team’s Web site here.