INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t the prettiest night for baseball, but Opening Night 2017 had a happy ending for the Indianapolis Indians.
A five-run seventh inning sparked the Tribe to a 7-4 triumph over the Toledo Mud Hens, Indy’s first home opening win at Victory Field since 2007.
The night got off to a bit of a bumpy start for Indy, with Toledo plating two runs in the top of the first. Indians starting pitcher Steven Brault retired the first two batters of the game, but an infield single from Juan Perez kept the frame alive for Steven Moya. The Hens’ right fielder took advantage, crushing a two-run homer to right.
The Indians would respond in the third, using a two-run shot of their own to even the score at 2-2. Gift Ngoepe did the honors, blasting a deep home run to center off of Hens starter Warwick Saupold. Ngoepe’s homer served as the Tribe’s first Opening Night long ball since Pedro Alvarez went deep in 2010.
Brault needed 80 pitches to get through four innings, so his night ended somewhat early. The southpaw surrendered two runs on five hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Saupold did not last much longer, giving up two runs on four hits and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of work.
Toledo took the lead back with a run in the fifth, but everything changed once the bottom of the seventh rolled around.
Indianapolis sent ten men to the plate in the frame, starting with Jason Rogers, who steered a game-tying home run fair down the right field line. Chris Bostick followed with a triple and while Max Moroff was at the plate, a wild pitch gave the Indians a 4-3 lead. Moroff did some damage of his own later in the at-bat, sending a solo home run to right center. Catcher Elias Diaz wrapped up the offensive onslaught in the inning, driving home Ngoepe and Jose Osuna to make it 7-3.
With Brault making it through just four innings on Thursday, new Tribe manager Andy Barkett had his work cut out for him with the bullpen. Barkett pushed the right buttons, though, as Indy’s relievers limited the Mud Hens to two runs on four hits in the game’s final five innings.
Brett McKinney, Josh Lindblom, A.J. Schugel, Cody Dickson and Edgar Santana each pitched one inning out of the Indians bullpen. Schugel picked up the win and Santana earned the save for the home team.
Game two of this four-game series is scheduled to get underway from downtown Indianapolis at 7:15 p.m. on Friday. Drew Hutchison is expected to get the ball for the Indians.