After nine straight scoreless frames, during which both teams stranded nine runners and the Tribe saw three runners thrown out at the plate, Indians right fielder Alex Presley ripped a triple with one out in the 15th inning before trotting home on a walk-off single by third baseman Matt Hague, giving Indianapolis a 2-1 victory over the Louisville Bats on Thursday night at Victory Field.
After both the Indians and Bats plated a single score in the top of the fifth inning each pitching staff would combine to throw nine shutout innings before Hague's base knock won it for the Tribe in the 15th. The scoreless frames were not, however, devoid of opportunity as both sides squandered several chances to plate a go-ahead score, including the Indians have runners thrown out at home in the eighth, 10th and 11th innings.
Dioner Navarro and SS Miguel Rojas led off the frame with back-to-back base hits before a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt by starter Jeff Francis loaded the bases with no outs. Tribe starter Rudy Owens then let fly a wild pitch that allowed Navarro to score, before expertly working out of any further damage by inducing a fly out and two strikeouts.
The Indians would even the score in their half of the fifth with a rally that began with a lead-off base hit from 1B Jeff Clement. Back-to-back two out walks to C Jose Morales and Owens later in the frame then set the stage for CF Starling Marte, who lined a sharp single that deflected off the pitcher Francis and allowed Clement to cross the plate to even the score at 1-1.
Despite excellent efforts from both starting pitchers neither would figure in the final decision. On the mound for the Bats, Major League veteran Jeff Francis (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO) allowed just four hits and a single run while striking out four over seven strong innings.
For the Indians, Owens (6.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) continued a stretch of tough-luck as he did not earn a decision despite allowing just a single run over six solid innings. The Tribe's southpaw starter has now gone at least six innings in eight of his nine starts and has a 2.65 ERA (10 ER in 34 IP) in five starts in the month of May.
In the 15-inning marathon affair, both bullpens also featured several excellent efforts from a variety of relievers.
Indians RHP Evan Meek (2.0 IP, 2 H), LHP Doug Slaten (3.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 SO) and RHP Jose Diaz (3.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 SO) combined to surrender just five hits over eight scoreless innings of relief. On the other side, Bats hurlers Carlos Fisher (0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 SO), Travis Webb (0.1 IP), Nick Christiani (2.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 SO) and Scott Carroll (3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 2 SO) combined to scatter seven hits over six scoreless frames.
The game would ultimately be decided by Tribe RHP Tim Wood and Bats RHP Jordan Smith. Wood (1.0 IP, 1 SO), who had earned the save with 2.1 scoreless innings in the Tribe's last contest on May 22 in Buffalo, earned the win to improve to 3-3 on Thursday night by tossing a scoreless top of the 15th. Smith (1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 SO), meanwhile, surrendered Hague's walk-off base knock to suffer the loss for Louisville and fall to 1-2 on the season
The Indians and Bats now wrap the first part of their home-and-home series on Friday night at 7:15 p.m. before heading to Louisville for the final two contests of the series. LHP Justin Wilson is expected to make the start for Indianapolis, while Louisville is scheduled to counter with RHP Pedro Villarreal.
The contest will be televised on HTSN (Hometown Sports and News), available via cable or over-the-air on digital channel 6.2. The game will also be carried on WNDE 1260 AM-WFBQ-HD2, WNDE.com and via iheartradio, a mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones with Howard Kellman and Will Flemming on the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:55 p.m.
Post-game quotes -- 3B Matt Hague
(On the victory in the bottom of the 15th inning)
"It was a long game, both teams played pretty well and all the pitchers threw pretty well. I'm glad we got the win."
(On many fans staying for the entire game)
"Yes. Thank you fans all for staying, by the way. It was a long game."
(On the Indians developing a 3.5-game lead in the division)
"We're playing good baseball right now. Overall, we're playing pretty good, and we're just going to keep it going."
(On relief pitcher Tim Wood pitching on short rest in the final innings)
"Tim's a tough guy. He's a good player and he's mature. He's the type of guy who wants the ball in that situation, so you've got to give credit to him, too."